By Razia Sultana
The American Cancer Society (ACS) sponsors the Relay for Life (RFL) event, which aims to celebrate, remember, and continue to fight the battle against cancer. This event began in Tacoma, Washington in 1985. The founder, Dr. Gordy Klatt, was a colorectal surgeon who decided to raise money for cancer research by doing what he loved most – running marathons.
On April 5th, 2013, Brooklyn Tech held its first Relay for Life event. Bringing together students, parents, faculty, and the alumni, the community was able to fundraise approximately $20,000.
According to Ahmed Abdelqader ’13, at the end of the 2011-2012 school year, a group of students came together to form a Tech Relay for Life committee. They decided to take on the difficult task of uniting Tech around an important cause.
“We worked almost all the time with Nancy Colt and Eric Wilson, employees of the ACS, and held many meetings both at and outside Tech.”
Abdelqader, who was also the Team Development Coordinator, says that he personally did RFL for a boy named Mahdi Motin, a former Brooklyn Tech student who passed away due to cancer in 2011.
This event commemorated Motin, who would have been a senior this year. Abdelqader said, “I’m the senior class president, and my job was to get the seniors involved. Mahdi never got a chance to live, and this was our opportunity to do something for him.”
The RFL kick off event took place on February 22nd in the auditorium. Major school organizations such as National Honor Society, Beta National Honor Society, Key Club, and the Student Government Organization came together and made fundraising mandatory for its members.
As part of his job, Abdelqader was responsible for making sure that teams were being formed and that money was being raised.
Zeng ’15, who fundraised for three different clubs, said that RFL helped her to become more grateful and to “appreciate the gift of life.”
While everyone had their own personal reason for participating in RFL, many did so to inspire hope.
Isabel Goldsmith ’15 said that she did RFL for her aunt, a woman she loves and respects. RFL gave Isabel the opportunity not only to participate on behalf of her aunt, but also to stand as a symbol of support for all the victims of cancer. “This event was amazing and really successful, and I think it should definitely happen next year.”
The main event took place on the afternoon of Friday, April 4th in the first floor gym. The gym was decorated with purple balloons and streamers. David Bauer, a magician, opened the event by doing Harry Houdini’s straightjacket escape stunt.
Mahnoor Usman ’14 saw this event as a chance to share her South Asian culture as well as fundraise. She did so by running a Henna booth, where she decorated students and teachers with Henna. Her intent was to brighten the atmosphere by doing something that displayed beauty and excitement. “This event was a huge learning experience for me, and I’m proud that I was able to make a difference.”
Highlights of the event include the “department” fashion show, a break dancing circle, a rock concert, a small dinner, and a dunk tank.
Each activity reminded attendees that they were supporting a worthwhile cause while keeping the mood light.
Spanish teacher Raquel Hornero said that her favorite part was participating in the fashion show with her fellow teachers. She added that it was a great way to teach young people about cancer and raise social awareness. She said, “The goal and purpose was executed; I saw so many students and teachers willing to participate and collaborate, and that was really wonderful.”
The event ended with a closing Luminaria ceremony that took place on the second-floor track. Students carried brightly lit glow sticks and circled the track, honoring the survivors as well as remembering the victims of cancer.
Overall, Relay for Life was a great accomplishment for the Tech community. The RFL committee intends to have this event continued as an annual fundraiser.
According to Abdelqader, “At one point, the name of the position does not matter. If something isn’t done, do it yourself. If it’s already in the process, make sure it gets done. As long as word is released and we get outreach, the event will be a success. It does not matter who you are, we can all work for RFL.”