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A Time To Support and Celebrate: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Community Set To Raise Funds and Cancer Awareness

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Media Relations

April 25, 2014

A Time To Support and Celebrate: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Community Set To Raise Funds and Cancer Awareness

Rensselaer Will Host Ninth Annual American Cancer Society Relay For Life Overnight Event April 25-26

More than 1,000 members of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute community, along with family and friends, will participate in the ninth annual Relay For Life event, sponsored by the American Cancer Society. The overnight event will be held on the Rensselaer campus in the Alumni Sports and Recreation Center (Armory) April 25-26 from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. Closing ceremonies will take place April 26, beginning at 5:30 a.m. Relay For Life is a community event that celebrates the lives of cancer survivors and remembers those who have lost their battle with the devastating disease.

Colleges Against Cancer, a Rensselaer Union student organization, is coordinating the event this year along with support from members of the Rensselaer campus community — including Greek Life, student-athletes, student clubs, faculty, staff, and others. The annual event is coordinated by a committee of nearly 30 students devoted to planning activities, entertainment, and the engagement of the Rensselaer community. This year, committee members have selected a pop culture theme that celebrates the 1990s to 2000s.

“I stepped in as chair because I wanted to do my part to fight back against this horrible disease,” said Molly Zuk, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering and Design, Innovation, and Society, who is serving as this year’s Relay For Life chair. “I really appreciate what the event stands for and I think it is a great opportunity for the campus to raise money and awareness. My amazing committee and I have been hard at work to ensure our event is an entertaining and rewarding experience for all involved. We’re really looking forward to the event, and we really hope to see as many people there as possible.”

Thus far, more than 80 teams and over 1,100 participants have registered to support the event. Participating teams will walk or run laps around the Armory track in an effort to increase cancer awareness, raise funds, and celebrate survivorship. To date, more than $51,000 has been raised for cancer research. Committee members hope to raise $100,000.

“Cancer is prevalent in society, and it’s something that affects all of us,” said Kyle Neumann, a sophomore who is studying nuclear engineering, and serving as the Relay For Life Ceremonies chair, and President of the Class of 2017. As someone with family members who have suffered from cancer, I think that the RPI Relay For Life event is an amazing opportunity to not only raises funds, but also serves as a meaningful way to create cancer awareness and help people to understand some ways to prevent cancer in their lives. I believe that survivors and caregivers need to be celebrated, and events like this offer support to people who are going through a tough time. This year, I walk for my family.”

Last year, the event involved more than 1,300 participants and raised $94,101. Since its inception, Relay For Life at Rensselaer has raised more than $800,000 to support patient services, research, education, and advocacy within the Capital Region. In 2011, Rensselaer was recognized by the American Cancer Society as one of the top 15 Per Capita Award winners for raising more than $103,000.

Relay For Life Program Highlights

The opening ceremony will begin at 6 p.m. and feature remarks from members of the Rensselaer campus community. Speakers include: Molly Zuk, 2014 Relay For Life event chair; Timothy Sams, vice president of student life; Lee Ligon, associate professor of biology who focuses on breast cancer research; and Jeff Spain, assistant dean in Residence Life, Rensselaer student, Caroline Horizny will sing the national anthem and the Color Guard will be presenting the flags. 

Following remarks, cancer survivors from the Rensselaer community will kick off the Relay For Life event, leading the first lap around the Armory track, holding balloons to represent the number of years since their diagnosis. The caregivers lap will follow. The lap celebrates family members, friends, and all those who have been involved in the care of individuals diagnosed with cancer.

The Luminaria ceremony will take place at 9 p.m. The ceremony is a candlelight vigil in honor of family and friends who have faced cancer. Illuminated white decorated bags will line the track as a poem of remembrance is read, followed by a moment of silence. Additional event highlights include Rensselaer and local student bands, singing groups, dance teams, and DJs, a Las Vegas themed fashion show.

A Walk or Lap Around the Track: How Relay For Life Makes a Difference in the Local Community

According to the American Cancer Society, each year more than one million people receive a cancer diagnosis. About half of all men and one-third of all women in the United States will develop cancer during their lifetimes. Today, millions of people are living with cancer or have had cancer. According to the organization, the risk of developing many types of cancer can be reduced by changes in a person’s lifestyle, for example, by staying away from tobacco, limiting time in the sun, being physically active, and eating healthy foods.

In the past year, residents in the Capital Region have been able to reap the rewards of the Relay For Life efforts. For example, more than 2,000 rides were given to cancer patients to and from their treatment appointments; 528 free wigs were given to women; and more than 3,000 local individuals looked to the area American Cancer Society for information about diagnosis, treatment, support services, financial assistance, and other services.

Additional highlights include: a program that enabled 155 women to attend a “Look Good, Feel Better” session to address the cosmetic effects after treatment; 418 personal health managers were assigned to newly diagnosed individuals; and patient navigators in 12 treatment locations continue to provide one-on-one support and information to patients and loved ones. The American Cancer Society has also been working with local health-care systems and colleges and universities in New York and New Jersey to establish 100 percent smoke-free campuses. Current Capital Region campuses include: Rensselaer, The Sage Colleges, College of Saint Rose, Maria College, and Albany Medical College.

Funds raised have also supported the Hope Club, which has provided social and emotional support to more than 1,015 adults and children, while the Hope Lodges in New York City, Buffalo, and Rochester have provided more than 27,000 nights of free lodging to cancer patients and their families.

Most important, nearly $1.7 million comes to Capital Region researchers through four active cancer research grants, according to the American Cancer Society, which is known as the largest private funder of cancer research in the United States.

“This year has been an exciting experience for the Relay For Life of RPI,” said Annemarie Papandrea, manager of special events, Relay For Life. “We’re thrilled to have received such great support from the RPI community, and we hope to see everyone join in the Armory for another amazing night. The planning committee has been working hard to create a night jam-packed with activities, entertainment, and ceremonies to keep everyone engaged all night. This is my second year with RPI’s Relay For Life, and I can't wait to see everyone come together for a night to honor cancer survivors and pledge to fight back against a disease that has already taken so much.”

The collegiate Relay For Life events were established in 2001. Over the years, more than 550 college campuses across the country have raised more than $21 million (and counting) to support cancer research. The events held in New York state and New Jersey have raised more than $2.5 million. In addition, nearly 300,000 individuals participated in the collegiate events held across the country, with more than 30,000 participants representing New York and New Jersey.

For more information about Relay For Life 2014, visit:

Individuals may follow Relay For Life at Rensselaer on Facebook:, and join the social media discussion on Twitter using the hash tag #RPIRelay.


Reeve Hamilton
Director of Media Relations and Communications

(518) 833-4277

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About Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Founded in 1824, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is America’s first technological research university. Rensselaer encompasses five schools, 32 research centers, more than 145 academic programs, and a dynamic community made up of more than 7,900 students and more than 100,000 living alumni. Rensselaer faculty and alumni include more than 145 National Academy members, six members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, six National Medal of Technology winners, five National Medal of Science winners, and a Nobel Prize winner in Physics. With nearly 200 years of experience advancing scientific and technological knowledge, Rensselaer remains focused on addressing global challenges with a spirit of ingenuity and collaboration.