Campus Community Goes Country to Fundraise for Cancer

At approximately 7 p.m. on Friday night, students, alumni and members of the Ramapo community made their way into the Bradley Center Arena to walk their laps in honor of the 7th annual Relay for Life event held at Ramapo College.

Ramapo put aside its native color of maroon for the event, transforming the Bradley Center into a sea of purple. Not only does Ramapo provide the space to host the event, but other College departments help out as well.

"Facilities comes and hangs signs for us, and Dining Services donate subs for the event," event chair Katie Lee, a senior, said.  has been extremely cooperative in helping us out with the annual event."

The purpose of Relay, which had a Western theme this year, is to promote awareness and raise money to help fund research for all kinds of cancer.

"Tonight we gather together to take another step towards putting an end to cancer. The next 12 hours will symbolize a day in the life of someone fighting cancer, a disease that never sleeps. We have come together as a community determined to support those still fighting and remember those who couldn't fight any longer. We fight for a world with more birthdays, and less cancer," said committee members in the opening ceremony speech.

Senior Grace Watkins attended the event with her mother who is a six-year survivor of a kidney cancer called renal cell carcinoma.

"In 2007 when we first heard, my whole family went into turmoil," Watkins said. "When you think of cancer, the first thing you think of is death."

Renal cell carcinoma cannot be treated with chemotherapy, but there was an alternative for Watkins' mother, Dotti.

"Thankfully the cancer was encased in the kidney, so they removed the whole kidney through surgery," Watkins said. "When she came out of the hospital it took her months to recover, but after rehab she got a lot better."

Watkins and her mother are extremely happy to be free of cancer.

"When you think about a cancer that can't be treated with radiation and chemotherapy, the surgery was like a blessing," Watkins said.

The night was full of fun things to do for Relay attendees, from potato sack races, to bra pong, to a solemn and emotional ceremony recognizing each survivor and remembering those who lost their fight.

Each survivor was called up to the stage to receive a sash and a flower in honor of their strength before they took the first lap. One particular survivor, Jose Vallejo, is a Ramapo alumni, an adjunct faculty member and faculty adviser for Colleges against Cancer and Relay for Life.

"I got diagnosed with testicular cancer Oct. 18, 2002, which was five months before graduation from Ramapo," Vallejo said.

Vallejo had flu-like symptoms but didn't have health insurance, so he went to the hospital to be seen. They told him that he didn't have the flu, but he might possibly have cancer.

"I didn't have time for cancer," said Vallejo. "All I kept thinking was, I have to go to work tomorrow, and I have to go to grad school."

After breaking the news to his parents, Vallejo spent the night at the hospital and the next morning he was in surgery. As time passed, he was treated with chemotherapy as well.

Once this long journey came to a halt, Vallejo finally went to graduate school and got his masters in counseling and now works at Ramapo.

"My whole outlook has always been sort of comical, but for those of us who are still battling and still fighting, as hard as it is–and I know it is–just keep positive," said Vallejo.