Campus unites for annual Relay for Life fundraiser

Volunteers, student organizations and cancer survivors were among the many supporters who participated in the fifth annual Florida A&M University Relay for Life campaign, an overnight fundraising event that helped raise $32,000 for the American Cancer Society’s fight against cancer.

The 18-hour event, sponsored by the Student Government Association and National Pan-Hellenic Council, was held at the Robert “Pete” Griffin Track on FAMU’s campus. Festivities began Friday at 3 p.m. and lasted until Saturday at 9 a.m.

Event chairwoman Irene Aihie, 24, said money raised from Relay for Life is used to assist cancer patients, for information research and for cancer prevention through early detections such as cervical and prostate screenings.

“We work hand in hand with the American Cancer Society to raise money,” she said. “The money raised by the school goes directly to them. None of it goes back to the school.” Fundraising began last November and continued until the day of the event. Donations will be accepted until the end of the fiscal year.

FAMU has participated in the Relay for Life fundraising event since 2003. It was spearheaded by FAMU alumnae and former SGA official Shara Senior.

“The Relay for Life fundraiser is a nationwide event hosted by 23 countries around the world,” Aihie said. With such a large number of national contributors, Aihie said Senior felt the event should be held here at FAMU, making this the first historically black college to host the event.

During the event, at least one member from each team had to remain on the track at all times. In an effort to raise the most money, teams took part in various competitions including a charades-like team lap, in which team members had to act out various characters while walking around the track. Participants enjoyed barbeque, live stage performances, games and a drive-in showing of the movie “Dreamgirls.” DJ KD and KD Sounds provided music throughout the night in between performances.Relay for Life celebrates survivorship and raises money to help the American Cancer Society in its mission to save lives, help those who have been touched by cancer, and empower individuals to fight back, according to

Aihie said raising money for organizations such as ACS is extremely important to black people because it heightens understanding of the disease.

“This disease affects blacks at such a high rate because they are not aware of it, especially young people,” she said. “If free food and entertainment attracts them to get involved with the cause then that’s what we’ll use. The most important thing is getting them involved.”

Kyla Porter, 21, a junior mathematics student from Miami, said she was inspired by friends to volunteer.

“I originally got involved with Relay for Life through two of my friends,” Porter said. “Then, after I learned more about the American Cancer Society and what it does, I got even more involved.

She volunteered last year and said she continues to support the campaign because it is a way for her to give back to the community.

Two major highlights of the event were the final survivors’ victory lap, which honored people who overcame the disease, and the luminary ceremony in remembrance of those who died from cancer.

Melba Hawkins-Littles, a 35-year survivor of bone cancer, said the event was a chance for her to connect with other survivors and an opportunity to help raise awareness about the disease so that what happened to her does not happen to anyone else. “I developed cancer as child during a time when there really wasn’t a lot of research about the disease,” Hawkins-Littles said. “So as a result, my leg had to be amputated above the knee.”

The FAMU graduate said years later she met many people who had developed the same type of cancer she had, but because of the new developments in cancer research they did not undergo amputations.

“If I would have been educated on treatments for the disease, my outcome might have been different,” Hawkins-Little said. “But I don’t complain about my situation because I know that it happened to me for a reason, which is to be a light for others in the fight against cancer.” For more information about cancer research, donations or becoming a community volunteer, contact the American Cancer Society’s 24-hour hotline at 1-800-ACS-2345 or visit