University’s Relay for Life reaches six-figure fundraising

Photo by Ocscar Lin/FIUSM 

Giselle Cancio/Staff Writer 

Jennifer Cordero, co-executive director of Relay for Life, was diagnosed with cancer in 2006 and has been a part of Relay For Life since her freshman year at FIU.

“I relay for individuals, like myself, who have had cancer present in their lives.” She said. “Whether they are survivors or they have passed away, I relay for them.”

She was diagnosed a rare form of a tumor in the thymus called thymoma. Usually, thymomas can be removed surgically and the cancer cells leave with it. This is not always the case. Cordero has had treatment every year in hopes of killing the cancer cells, but they keep surfacing in her body. This week, she will start another treatment in which she is hopeful will be the last.

Being on the committee to her means relay is 365 days a year. Cordero feels she is blessed to be a part of this growing organization and has been planning this years relay for over 7 months.

Relay for Life benefits the American Cancer Society. In 1985, the first Relay was held in Tacoma, Washington and was led by Dr. Gordy Klatt. In 2004, the first Relay was held at FIU lead by Marlene Quincoces, also known as Marly Q.  Ever since then, Relay for Life has grown, raising thousands each year.

Through the American Cancer Society, the money is distributed to various programs that promote cancer research, cancer treatment, and the well being of patients.

During the event, over 100 teams sold food, held fundraisers, and walked continuously around the track relaying for those who have survived and for those who have lost their lives in the battle.

Some fundraising events included putting people in a jail cell and having to raise money to be released, pillow-fights, video game tournaments,  photoshoots and sport games.

Between pre-fundraising events and the night of, this year’s relay set a record, raising over $115,000. It’s the first year the amount raised is in triple digits. There is no particular reason for the event being 14 hours, but it is held overnight as cancer never sleeps.

Being the 10th anniversary of Relay, this year’s theme was “10 years of hope.”

“We’ve had such incredible themes throughout the years and in conjunction with our 10th years anniversary, the committee decided to bring all the themes back and represent them at the event.” Cordero said.

There were several performances the night of including musicians, spoken word, dancers and special ceremonies. The opening ceremony incorporates the committee, Mr. and Miss. Relay, important FIU officials including President Rosenberg and Marly Q herself. A ribbon is cut to officially kick off the event and the survivors are at the front in celebration of their victory against cancer.

Beautiful lengths, added in 2012, is a ceremony in which women and men donate 8 or more inches of their hair. This part of Relay gives women free wigs when unfortunately they have lost their hair. It takes 6 ponytails to make 1 wig and the wigs come in all hair colors and textures.

Over 200 men and women donated their hair this year, and a group particularly close to Cordero, her sorority, did it in her honor.

“I truly tried to keep all my emotions together but I couldn’t possibly put into words the love and support my chapter has given me throughout these 4 years and the night of Relay,” she said. “I have seen the numbers increase from 5-10 to now this year being 29 women who selflessly donated their hair to make others feel beautiful.”

The 29 women went on stage together and held a sign “This is for you, Jenny.”

The Luminaria ceremony is a time for reflection and remembrance. Many people gather around their luminarias, which are bags filled with sand and a lit candle, and take the time of remembering those survivors or those family members that have passed away. The ceremony includes spoken word and a caregiver speaking.

“As a survivor and now undergoing cancer treatment again, it has made me realize that I am not alone in this community and there are many individuals who can understand this disease.” Cordero said. “It makes a time in this event to truly think about why we relay as a community. We hope that one day, every single bag says In Honor of.” 

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