Student events put focus on battling cancer, AIDS

Relay For Life and Brandeis Cares strive to raise money and awareness

Participants in last year's Relay For Life

Brandeis’ annual Relay For Life, the culmination of year-long efforts on the part of the Relay For Life Planning Committee and the Brandeis chapter of Colleges Against Cancer, will kick off at 5 p.m. Saturday in Gosman Sports and Convocation Center.

“The older we get as a generation, the more cancer affects us and becomes relevant in our lives. I want students to use Relay For Life to celebrate the survivors of this disease and to show unity against it,” says Michelle Hack '12, president of the Brandeis chapter of College Against Cancer, who has been involved in the group’s efforts since her freshman year. Colleges Against Cancer represents the American Cancer Society on campus and works towards three major goals: fundraising, advocacy and education.

Hack says during the 13 years she spent in her native South Africa she was exposed to numerous cancer-related tragedies. Her personal interest in the fight against cancer began when she tutored children suffering from the disease who had to miss school because of chemotherapy treatments.

“What we do on campus often is social advocacy for specific groups of people,” Hack says, “but this is a cause which affects and can unite the entire community, regardless of racial and ethnic boundaries.”

Relay For Life began as a symbolic event in global cancer awareness and fundraising, in 1985, when Dr. Gordy Klatt, a surgeon in Tacoma, Wash., walked around a track for 24 hours to raise money for the American Cancer Society. Now, almost four million people take part in Relay events in more than 5,000 communities across the United States.

At Brandeis Saturday, all participants will walk a first lap together around the track to honor cancer survivors. Then, each team in the competition will have a member on the track walking throughout the night. The event ends at 5 a.m. Sunday. Would-be participants can sign up on line.

“The motto of Relay For Life is that ‘Cancer never sleeps, and neither should we’, which is why we stay up all night,” Hack explains.

Brandeis has been celebrating Relay For Life for five years. This year the relay planning committee decided to work with the themes of spirit and courage in an effort to infuse the celebrations with a feeling of hope.

Hannah Katcoff’ ’12, event chair of Relay For Life, explains that the CAC handles the logistical and financial aspects of the event, while the planning committee organizes the many parts of the event, which include will include talks by President Fred Lawrence, Student Union President Herbie Rosen’12 and a cancer survivor, followed by various activities and the Luminaria service, in which participants use glow sticks and electronic candles in a moving commemoration of people who have been lost to cancer. The service will feature a performance by the a capella group Starving Artists.

In another student-organized event to raise awareness and funds this week, Brandeis' undergraduate musical theater company Tympanium Euphorium has organized Brandeis Cares, a Broadway revue benefit concert that will donate its proceeds to Broadway Cares: Equity Fights AIDS.

The concert will be held in Sherman Function Hall at 7 p.m. Thursday. MCs will be Brandeis Senior Vice President for Students and Enrollment Andrew Flagel and Deirdre "Dr. Dre" Connelly. Tickets will be on sale for $3 in Usdan Student Center from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

The event is produced and sponsored by the Brandeis Pluralism Alliance, the Undergraduate Departmental Representative Program and the Undergraduate Theater Collective.

Ellyn Getz ’13, director of Brandeis Cares 2012, stresses that the event provides an opportunity for clubs and students not directly affiliated with the theater community to perform and get involved with the fundraiser. Students, faculty, alumni and members of the Waltham community may participate.

Getz has participated in Brandeis Cares since 2009, and felt a strong pull toward the cause of AIDS awareness when she played the role of Mimi Marquez, a character struggling with HIV, in Tympanium’s 2011 production of “Rent.” As she researched the character, Getz realized that the disease had far-reaching effects within the Brandeis community.

“I studied the communities and people that deal with the stigma of this illness, and spoke to students who have dealt with an AIDS-related loss. There are definitely people at Brandeis who have been deeply affected by this disease, so this is a poignant cause to advocate for within the community,” Getz says.

Categories: General, Student Life

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