The goal has gotten bigger every year for Chestnut Hill College’s Griffins Against Cancer (GAC) organization.
In 2014, its first year, the club participated in Villanova’s Relay for Life. By the second year, the club became an official chapter of the American Cancer Society’s (ACS) “Colleges Against Cancer” and co-sponsored the Relay for Life at Arcadia University, helping to raise more than $2,200 for the ACS.
“When we started the club it was all leading up to this, to being able to host our very own Relay for Life right here on campus,” says Kimberly Morales ’17, club co-founder and current president. “Now that we’ve gotten experience and have our official sponsor with the ACS, I believe it’s going to be a reality.”
GAC was the brainchild of three freshmen, Morales and two of her friends, Krista DeLuca ’17 and Josh Woolaver ’17, who joined in support of a common cause.
“It’s hard to find someone who hasn’t been touched by the disease,” Morales says. “So I think that was the motivation for us. We all had those people in our lives and we knew those in the College community did too. We just wanted to come together for all of them, and in the words of the American Cancer Society, create a world with less cancer, a world with more birthdays.”
The club began hosting their first fundraisers in 2014 and collected about $200 or more from each event. They held bake sales, 50/50 raffles and sold GAC wristbands. This money went toward the club’s participation in the Relay for Life.
An annual event sponsored by the ACS, the Relay for Life has three main components — to celebrate the survivors, to honor those who lost their lives to the disease and to empower participants to do what they can in the fight against cancer. What started in 1985 as one man’s walk around a track in Tacoma, Wash., has turned into a worldwide phenomenon, which has raised more than $5 billion for cancer research to date.
This figure includes the $2,283.09 that GAC raised leading up to their participation in the 2015 Relay for Life they co-sponsored with Arcadia. In all, $14,344.66 was raised through fundraisers and race sponsors.
“It really is a team effort,” says Morales. “Each member got family and friends to sponsor them and that, combined with what we pulled from fundraising, helped make us the group with the highest total. I was so proud of everyone involved.”
As a co-sponsor, GAC was closely involved in some of the planning and activities for the day, something that Morales found particularly valuable as it relates to her dream of having CHC’s own Relay for Life in 2017.
“I had always thought that there was so much structure and that certain things had to go in certain order,” Morales says. “But the cool thing I learned from this experience is that you really can personalize it for your specific audience.”
In an effort to prepare the College for its own Relay for Life, Morales and the club hosted its largest fundraiser to date with the help of the student club, La Voz Latina, at the end of April. Complete with a luminaria ceremony, a Relay for Life staple, performances from The Ugly4 and Matt Duke, free yoga and Zumba, a photo booth and more, the goal was to show the College community what it would be like to have its own Relay for Life on campus.
But most of all, in Morales’ words, it was to prove that “they could.”
“We just wanted to show everybody that a Relay for Life is something we can do and something we can do well,” she says. “It was the first step in working with our ACS assigned staff partner and making sure this is something we can do next year and hopefully, every year after that.”
The weather forced the event inside to a smaller venue, but through a great social media presence, the club was still able to make it successful.
“It’s just a matter of picking a date and really getting the awareness out there,” says Morales, whose plan is to contact the College’s staff partner at the end of the semester to start planning for next year’s event. “It’s definitely something that would bring the College together. And given the impact cancer has had on those in the College community, it’s a good thing to fight back against.”
— Marilee Gallagher ’14