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UAlbany Students Inspire Hope Through Relay For Life

February 23, 2009

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Last year's Relay filled the SEFCU Arena with walkers and their tents.

UAlbany students pitched tents and walked through the night at last year's Relay For Life at the SEFCU Arena. (Photo, courtesy of Jay Kondrup)

UAlbany's student-run Relay For Life to benefit cancer research has grown from a small event in 2005 with 200 participants to the largest Relay – in terms of dollars raised—among universities and colleges in the Capital Region, according to event organizers.
This year's Relay, which is March 21-22, will get a jump start on Feb. 23 with Paint Your Campus Purple Day. Students will create a Wall of Hope, writing messages on the Lecture Center windows about loved ones and friends who have survived cancer.

"Paint Your Campus Day is a great way to get out the word about Relay For Life," said Jay Kondrup, a senior accounting major from Wantagh, N.Y., who is president of Students of Albany Against Cancer, which organizes the Relay. Rachel Gartner is vice president and chair of Relay this year.

"I'm so grateful for the committee we have helping out and I know all the hard work will make this year's Relay one of a kind," Gartner said.

Each year, Relay organizers reach out to a different group of people to increase support. "One of our big initiatives this year is to reach out to faculty and staff," said Kondrup. "They are part of the UAlbany community, so we want to include them."

Last year UAlbany's Relay raised just under $94,065. This year's goal is $105,000.

With the theme this year being "Relay Goes Hollywood," students are naming their teams after popular flicks, like "Big Momma's House," which has already raised almost $1,100. A "mummy wrap" will be one of the many activities at the 15-hour walkathon.

The Relay is a massive volunteer effort, with a team of 45 volunteers that begins leadership planning the summer before the event. Some 1,600 to 1,800 participants are expected to join the event this year, 90 percent of whom are students. For participants who "stay until 6 a.m. – it's just a sense of accomplishment—you're inspired by those survivors who keep fighting." Last year the mother of one of the committee members walked for 12 hours of the Relay.

In addition to raising funds, the Relay is about educating men and women to go for cancer screenings and to put the emphasis on early detection. For more information about Students of Albany Against Cancer, e-mail saac@albany.edu .

"I work with 45 phenomenal people who are dedicated to this cause," said Kondrup. "There isn't one person I know who doesn't know someone affected by cancer."

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