In memory of those lost, in support of those fighting and in celebration of those who survived, hundreds of students gathered on Saturday night until the early hours of Sunday morning for Hofstra’s 10th annual Relay for Life – a fight against cancer.
The night was comprised of a multitude of activities and events, including various a capella and dance performances, Zumba, karaoke and a booth sponsored by Pantene Beautiful Lengths where people could donate their hair. In addition, many Relay teams held their own fundraisers at their sites throughout the night where participants could pay to do things like tie-dye shirts, pie people in the face and even dye a person’s hair for a certain price. Relay amassed over $63,000, which will be donated to the American Cancer Society, according to junior political science major Michelle Zarifis, a co-chair of Relay.
“This year – I believe – was the first year we had so many of our participants stay until 5 a.m.,” Zarifis said. “[The participants] were all invested in each activity we put on and the energy they had was contagious.”
Zarifis shared that Relay for Life is an event that means a lot to her, as her brother is a cancer survivor.
“I have been involved with this event for over 10 years and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to run it this year at Hofstra. You really saw the Hofstra community come together Saturday night by sharing their stories and experiences, which is what Relay is meant to do.”
Like Zarifis, senior psychology major Shayna Braitman, who is another co-chair of Relay, was personally affected by the disease when her grandmother was diagnosed with and survived breast cancer. Likewise, Braitman used this as a reason to make Relay the best that it could be.
“This was Relay for Life’s 10th year at Hofstra, which is something special because not a lot of universities make it 10 years,” Braitman said. “I’ve been involved in Relay since my freshman year of high school and to be able to co-chair the event this year was an amazing opportunity I will never forget. It’s a lot work but it all pays off when you see everyone super involved.”
Braitman additionally relays for her friends who have also been affected by cancer; one of which was chosen to be the Caregiver Speaker at the event. Allie Beswick lost her mother to cancer this past summer. In her speech, she described the battle she and her family went through, and how she has since used this experience to become the best person she can be.
“Sharing my story in front of hundreds of people was terrifying, but I am so glad I did it,” Beswick said. “It was so rewarding and healing to stand up there and talk about what being a caregiver was like for me.”
Beswick then recalled an incredible moment that occurred while she was speaking when she felt the presence of her mother with her on stage.
“During my speech, a flag on stage came crashing down,” Beswick said. “I thought it was weird and maybe could have been my mom, but didn’t think much of it the rest of the night. The next day, my friend from home texted me saying my mom was in her dream on Saturday night. My mom told her that she missed me and was proud of me, and when she was walking away said, ‘Don’t forget to tell Allie to watch the flag.’ My friend had no idea I gave a speech let alone the fact that a flag fell while I was speaking. It is absolutely crazy, but my mom was definitely on stage with me while I was talking and I can’t even put that experience into words.”
Following Beswick’s speech, the audience took a silent lap around the field, passing luminarias bearing the names of loved ones who have lost the battle to cancer. It was a moment that truly marked the essence of Relay – to show that cancer is a disease that no one will fight on their own. At this 10th annual Relay for Life, the relayers came together in support of each other, striding away from the hardships of the disease and towards the gleaming light of life that will someday be discovered.