Students come together to raise money for cancer research

April 14, 2022
Kate Amabile, '24, organized Relay for Life on campus to foster community and combat cancer.

Kate Amabile, ’24, wanted to create a sense of community for her peers on campus and did just that to support the fight against cancer. Having become involved in Relay for Life while in high school, Amabile says the event touched her heart after losing her grandfather to the disease. “There is something so special about being able to raise money for the American Cancer Society (ACS) in a team with your friends and celebrate the lives of survivors and caregivers on event day.”

Many people’s lives have been touched by cancer—either through a personal diagnosis or in supporting a loved one’s battle. ACS estimates over 1.9 million new cancer cases will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2022. Relay for Life provides the opportunity to honor and support loved ones who have been affected by the disease. A community-based fundraising event for ACS, Relay for Life events take place all over the world to raise funds to improve cancer survival, decrease the incidence of cancer, and improve the quality of life for cancer patients and their caregivers.

As a volunteer-based event, Amabile assembled a group of peers and mentors to plan and execute the event at University of Richmond. “None of this would have been possible without our Relay executive board, committee chairs, and committee members,” said Amabile. “I have never seen a group more willing to help out and dedicated to raising money for such a good cause.”

Planning for the event required coordination with campus electricians for sound and lighting equipment, dining services to provide food and beverage options, ACS representatives, event entertainment groups, student volunteer recruiters, partner and sponsor organizations, and many others. As a student-run organization, Amabile needed a faculty advisor and reached out to Nancy Bagranoff, professor of accounting. “From the very beginning I knew that Professor Bagranoff was very special,” Amabile shared. “Getting to work with her, learn from her, and become even closer with her has been the greatest gift. She taught me to never give up and has encouraged me every step of the way.”

Bagranoff noted Amabile’s passion for the event and wanted to support her efforts. “I thought it would be a great idea for our students to have the chance to engage in an activity that is beneficial to society and could help them develop a broad skill set that included leadership, project management, marketing, and – yes, accounting,” she said.

The Robins School served as Relay for Life’s presenting sponsor and several academic departments formed teams to participate in the day’s events. Overall, 250 people in 22 teams were in attendance and as Amabile reflects, participants “flooded the tracked and walked the first lap of the event together.” Amabile’s favorite part of the evening was the Luminaria ceremony, during which the lights are turned off, speeches are shared, and Luminaria bags are lit in dedication of loved ones struggling with or lost to cancer.

Attendees crack glow sticks when they relate to messages shared. “As the glow sticks are lit you can see others around you who have been through a similar experience. The Luminaria ceremony is bonding and fosters a sense of community and support. It is truly one of the most moving experiences I have ever had,” said Amabile. Among the speakers were Dr. Jordyn Griffin, an area pediatric hematology oncologist, and Dean Quiñones, both sharing the importance of ACS and their personal connection in fighting the disease.

Since this was UR’s inaugural Relay for Life event, ACS identified a reasonable fundraising goal of $7,500. Amabile and the team more than tripled that goal and collected $23,611 to help fund cancer research and provide access to cancer treatment. “There were some disappointments along the way but the event ultimately exceeded all of our expectations, shared Bagranoff. “We were quite pleased and believe we can call it a great success.”

Amabile plans to continue Relay for Life at UR annually.

Click here to see more photos from the event.

Pictured above: Kate Amabile and Nancy Bagranoff