Relay for Life kickoff held in Student Center

March 2016

2016 Relay for Life Kickoff 01Each year, more than 4 million people in over 20 countries raise much-needed funds and awareness to save lives from cancer through Relay for Life events and this year, one of those events will be held, for the first time ever, on the campus of SUNY Polytechnic Institute in Utica.

Relay For Life teams camp out overnight and take turns walking or running around a track or path at a local school, park, or fairground. Knowing cancer never sleeps, these Relay events can run for up to 24 hours long, with each team is asked to have at least one participant on the track at all times.

It all got into gear February 2 with a kickoff event held in the multipurpose room of the Student Center.

While fun was had as students played games and answered trivia related to cancer, treatments, and those fighting it, there was also education and empathy, as students learned more about what’s being done in the battle against cancer, how they can help, and heard first-hand experiences of fighting back.

2016 Relay for Life Kickoff 03The keynote speaker for the kickoff event was SUNY Poly’s own Web Coordinator Lynne Browne, herself a breast cancer survivor and co-founder of the annual Breast Cancer Awareness Walk that began in 2006 in conjunction with the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event and takes place on campus every fall. Over the past ten years, the SUNY Poly Making Strides team has raised more than $30,000 for the American Cancer Society.

“It was ten years ago this month that I was diagnosed with Stage Two Breast Cancer,” Browne told the crowd. “What does that mean? Well, to me, it meant that in addition to surgery and radiation, I had to have chemo. And because I had to have chemo, everyone would know that I was sick because I would lose my hair. To be honest, I’m not sure I would be so vocal about cancer awareness if that didn’t happen. But it did, so here I am talking to you about The Big C.”

Browne says she believes her diagnosis was not a curse, but a blessing, because it prompted her to get involved in fundraising and helping others who are going the same things she did.

“It’s a scary thing to be told ‘you have cancer.’ Your ability to hear and comprehend vanishes. You think the doctor is wrong and there must be a mistake. But after you have had some time to let the news sink in, you start to do some research about that you’ve been told. You go online and dig for answers, and let me tell you, there’s a lot of information out there,” Browne said. “So let me suggest that if you’re ever in this situation, start out with the American Cancer Society’s website, You can look up information and be confident that what you’re finding is factual. Once you’ve done your research, you will find out they have many other things to offer. Things like programs, places to stay if you’re traveling for treatment, support for patients and caregivers, and a whole lot more.”

As part of the kick-off, student volunteers were on-hand ready to help register their peers to take part in the annual Relay for Life event, and that involvement through SUNY Poly came with a discounted registration fee. While it ordinarily costs $10 to register a team, those doing so that day through February 14 had registration fees sliced in half to only $5.

2016 Relay for Life Kickoff 02During Relay for Life events, participants and survivors celebrate what they’ve overcome, remember those they’ve lost to the disease, and honor people who have fought or are fighting the cancer. The event aims to inspire those taking part to take action against a disease that has taken too much.

“This is really a student-driven event,” said Robert Elinskas, Director of Special Events for the American Cancer Society. “The students are the ones who have been taking on all the roles in this, from planning to execution. SUNY Poly should be very proud of what these students have accomplished.”

2016 Relay for Life Kickoff 04“The Relay Committee is what I like to call “stacked.” The Committee Chair tapped on his peers who excel in their committee areas, and to witness their hard work and dedication come to fruition with the Relay Kick-Off at SUNY Poly left me speechless,” said SUNY Poly Student Activities Coordinator Alyssa Napolitano. “I’m so proud of our campus community for coming together to celebrate, remember, and fight back for all of those affected by cancer, and hope to see everyone at the Relay.”

The American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life will be held for the first-time on the campus of SUNY Polytechnic Institute in Utica from 7 pm on April 1 to 7 am on April 2 in the Wildcat Field House.