A Night To Remember: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Set To Light a Torch for Cancer


Media Relations media@rpi.edu

April 26, 2012

A Night To Remember: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Set To Light a Torch for Cancer

Rensselaer Will Host Seventh Annual American Cancer Society Relay For Life Overnight Event April 27-28

More than 1,100 members of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute community, along with family and friends, will participate in the seventh 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 & Recreation Center (Armory) April 27-28 from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. The 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. The theme that Rensselaer has selected for 2012  is an Olympian theme as a way to “torch a light for more birthdays.”

According to organizers, elements celebrating Greek culture and sports, as well as individuals in traditional toga attire, will be seen throughout the event. “This year’s event is going to be very exciting,” said Brian Nock, a senior majoring in civil engineering, who is also serving as this year’s Relay For Life chair. “We will have more entertainment than ever before, featuring a host of student bands, singing groups, dance teams, and DJs that will occupy the stage for nearly 12 full hours.”

This year, members of the Rensselaer campus community -- including Greek Life, student-athletes, student clubs, faculty, staff, and others -- have joined forces to raise nearly $72,000 (and counting) for cancer research. Committee members hope to raise $110,000. More than 85 participating teams will walk or run laps around the Armory track in an effort to increase cancer awareness, raise funds, and celebrate survivorship.

Last year’s Relay For Life event had more than 1,300 participants and raised $103,000. Since its inception, Rensselaer has raised more than half a million dollars to support patient services, research, education, and advocacy within the Capital Region.

Relay For Life Program HighlightsThe opening ceremony will begin on April 27 at 6 p.m. Rensselaer freshman Caroline Horizny will sing the national anthem. Featured Rensselaer speakers will include: Rensselaer President Shirley Ann Jackson and George Plopper, professor of biology in the Department of Biology and Biomedical Engineering. His research interests include: cell-extracellular matrix interactions, cell signaling, stem cell biology, cancer cell biology, and tissue engineering. Rensselaer student Suman Patnaik, a junior majoring in electronic media, arts, and communication (EMAC), will speak and share her experiences of surviving a leukemia diagnosis.

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.

Additional event highlights include a “Fashion For Life” competition that will take place at 11 p.m., a soccer tournament organized by Red Bull, a frozen T-shirt contest, “Olympic Trial” events, tug-of war games, a rock-paper-scissors competition, and karaoke contests.

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.

Closing ceremonies will take place on April 28, beginning at 5:30 a.m.

A Walk or Lap Around the Track: How Relay For Life Makes a Difference in the Local CommunityAccording to the American Cancer Society, each year more than one million people receive a cancer diagnosis. In addition, the organization estimates that about one out of every two American men and one out of every three American women will have some type of cancer at some point in their lifetime.  

 “This year, we are working to get more campus involvement and we have seen more success in achieving this,” Nock said.  “In planning for and celebrating the seventh annual Relay For Life event, we are excited to continue igniting the RPI community. We are a campus community. The event is organized by a committee of over 30 students, and it has been fun for me to push this group to think critically and develop a thorough plan for the event. We really want to share the experience with faculty, administrators, staff, and their families and friends. This is a fight that we cannot take on alone and win.”

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 to support cancer research. The events held in New York state and New Jersey raised $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.

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 2,900 rides were given to cancer patients to and from their treatment appointments; 158 free wigs were given to women, and a large number of women and men received hats and scarves; and more than 3,000 local individuals looked to the area American Cancer Society for information about diagnosis, treatment, support services, financial assistance, or 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, and a similar program was developed for teenagers; more than 490 personal health managers were assigned to newly diagnosed individuals; and patient navigators in seven treatment locations continue to provide one-on-one support and information to patients and loved ones. The American Cancer Society is also 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 Saint Rose, Maria College, and Albany Medical College.

Most important, nearly $2.5 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.

“If nothing else, we want the RPI community to come and join us at the Relay event,” said Jessica Giles ’09, manager of special events, Relay For Life. “The event is a memorable experience that stays with participants for the rest of their lives. I’ve always enjoyed stepping back and looking over the crowd at RPI’s Relay For Life. There’s nothing like watching hundreds of your fellow students walk the track and join together toward a common cause. It’s about fighting back as a community against a disease that has taken so much and touched many.”The overall event is organized by a 36-member committee made up of Rensselaer students from the Greek Life community, the Colleges Against Cancer organization, Athletics, others from the campus community, and a staff member from the American Cancer Society.

To learn more about Rensselaer Professor George Plopper’s recent research, visit:


For more information about Relay For Life 2012, visit: www.relayforlife.org/rpi.


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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, over 30 research centers, more than 140 academic programs including 25 new programs, and a dynamic community made up of over 6,800 students and 104,000 living alumni. Rensselaer faculty and alumni include upwards of 155 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. To learn more, please visit www.rpi.edu.