FIU family members become cancer-fighting superheroes at Relay for Life

Hundreds of students, faculty/staff, alumni, friends and family channeled the heroes within to show they’re “ordinary people by day, cancer fighters by night,” at the March 2-3 “Superheroes”-themed 8th annual FIU Relay for Life, one of the largest philanthropies on campus.

An estimated 80 teams participated in this year’s event, walking throughout the night in front of the Ryder Business Building at Modesto A. Maidique Campus and raising more than $88,000 for the American Cancer Society in the process (organizers will release a final figure soon). They walked in honor of cancer patients, survivors and caregivers, and in memory of those that lost their battles.

“There is a present need for people to come together, under this banner, and do their part to end cancer,” said Steven Cruz, an international relations senior and the executive director of the 2012 FIU Relay for Life. “There’s a magic in the air that comes from people being united by a purpose and willing to dedicate themselves and their efforts to a very singular cause.”

While the event started at 6 p.m. on March 2, some teams started arriving at the Ryder Business Building as early as noon to begin setting up. During the Relay’s opening ceremony, survivor Jorge Casas ’06 said, “This disease has no sense of discrimination.

“This is going to impact a baby, a teenager, a young adult, an elderly person, regardless of color, gender – it can impact anyone’s life. Ask yourself who you are walking for when you get tired of doing laps.”

The psychology alumnus then joined FIU First Lady Rosalie Rosenberg for the traditional Survivor’s Lap that officially starts the event. As the Relay began, some teams, like the Phi Sigma Kappa brothers, sold cotton candy to raise money, while others, like the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, hosted fun sumo wrestling matches – complete with inflatable outfits.

There was even a Monopoly-style jail cell into which folks could pay to throw their friends in and from which the incarcerated had to bargain a price of release.

As the night went on, live bands and a stepping-and-strolling showcase kept the audience entertained and energized. To show solidarity – and as some said in the signs they carried on stage, “because it grows back” or “to make someone feel beautiful again” – more than 30 participants donated ponytails of their hair for the Pantene Beautiful Lengths campaign.

The evening’s most touching moments came during the Luminaria ceremony as participants took a lap around the grounds, which were brightened by illuminated bags they’d purchased in honor of those who have battled or have been lost to cancer.

Natalie Arias is a senior hospitality major. She has been involved with the event for many years and served as logistics chair in 2012. She said the Relay became much more personal to her in the past year.

“I had always worked with Relay for Life in honor of my dad, but when he passed away last year, it became so much more,” she said. “I had to fight harder, because I would never want anyone else to go through what I went through.”

– By Christian Williams