Relay for Life hopes to raise cancer awareness

Colleges and universities across the country spend a night of dodgeball, capture-the-flag, volleyball, music, food and fundraising for scientific research and cancer awareness each year on their respective campuses-but this is not the case on the Coral Gables campus of the University of Miami.

Relay for Life, sponsored by the American Cancer Society, is an overnight event where groups of people gather together to walk or run laps in the hope that one day the world will be rid of cancer.

Shivani Joshi, of the ACS, said that UM is the only university that sponsors the eventbut does not allow the event to take place on school grounds.

President Donna E. Shalala, who was out of town this week, said in an e-mail that UM receives about 20 requests from organizations, such as Relay for Life, to have annual events on campus, which may accumulate costs of up to $100,000 for police, cleaning and parking services. Because of these costs, Shalala said that the university cannot accommodate every organization, or choose between them.

Members of the Relay for Life Committee at UM feel that if the event took place on campus, the relay would receive an increase in corporate sponsorship and an increase in student participation.

“How much more convenient is it to walk from your dorm to the IM fields to walk for a few hours as opposed to finding a way to get to another location?” said Andrew Haines, co-chair of sponsorship for the Relay for Life Committee.

The committee will be tabling in the UC Breezeway next week in order to start raising awareness for the event and encourage students to show support for the event being held on campus.

“Other schools have great turnouts and great success because it’s more convenient,” said Matt Lee, the other co-chair for the Relay for Life Committee.

At another UM, the University of Montana, the Relay is the highest grossing college relay in that state.

hTony Brockman, the event chair at Montana, feels that it is important for the event to take place on campus

“I believe that the benefit of having the event on campus is raising awareness to students about cancer,” he said. “There is a cost for the event, but we take care of it through fundraising.

He estimated that all of their costs came to roughly $4,000.

In addition to the event being more costly on Miami’s campus, the university also has to adhere to Coral Gables ordinances about different community concerns, such as sound disturbances for an overnight event.

“I will tell you based on past experience and working with the American Cancer Society, for [the event] to happen on our campus I think there will need to be some compromise in the format,” said Richard Walker, director of the University Center and Student Life.

Last year, UM’s Relay for Life took place at South Miami High, and benefited from the participation of 600 UM students who raised $53,000. The Relay for Life Committee hopes to see the number of students who participate in UM’s Relay in March of 2007 to increase.

“I don’t want anyone coming to me saying they wish they knew [about the event],” said Tommy Falconer, event chair of Relay for Life at UM. “Let’s get the ball rolling now and show Shalala we want this on campus.”

This year’s Relay for Life will take place at the end of March, but the exact date has not been scheduled. For more information please go to the Relay for Life webpage on Facebook.

Karyn Meshbane may be contacted at