University Student Clubs Serve by Raising Funds and Awareness

5/6/14

Many people are aware of the thousands of hours of hands-on volunteer service that University of Scranton students perform each year: planting flowers, cleaning streets, volunteering at food pantries or working at the University’s free community health clinic. A less known fact is that there are several student clubs that raise thousands of dollars each year for national charities.

Two such student organizations are the University’s Colleges Against Cancer chapter and the ALS Awareness Club, which together have raised nearly $50,000 for the American Cancer Society and national organizations dedicated to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease).

University senior Christie A. Garrecht, an occupational therapy major from Northport, N.Y., founded the ALS Awareness Club with other University students two years ago. Its purpose is to raise money and awareness for ALS, a neurological disease that attacks the nerve cells responsible for controlling voluntary muscles such as those in the arms, legs and face. It is progressive and fatal.

In addition to fundraising and awareness programs, the group also offers a patient support program in which students send items such as cards and flower bouquets to local ALS patients to help brighten their days. In Lackawanna County alone, there are more than 50 ALS patients, Garrecht said.

“While being a part of this club on campus for the past two years, I have met many students, staff and faculty who have personally been touched by this terrible disease and have their own story,” Garrecht said. “It has also taught me that as one part of the campus, we can make a difference in the community around us.”

May is ALS Awareness Month, and the club is holding two fundraisers – a baseball cap sale and a May 11 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders game. Part of the ticket sales for the game will go to the club, which will donate its proceeds from these events to various ALS organizations, such as Johns Hopkins University’s Packard Center for ALS Research.

Colleges Against Cancer (CAC), meanwhile, recently raised more than $47,000 at its annual Relay for Life event on campus. The CAC club is a division of the American Cancer Society and has four strategic divisions: cancer education; survivorship; mission and advocacy; and the Relay for Life. Each year CAC hosts Relay for Life as its signature event.

According to the American Cancer Society website, Relay For Life events occur worldwide to honor cancer survivors, remember loved ones lost, and fight back against cancer. Events are up to 24 hours long and involve Relay For Life teams camping out overnight and taking turns walking or running around a track or path.

This year, more than 500 people participated in the University’s Relay for Life, according to chapter president Sarah Humbert, a senior occupational therapy major from Bucks County.

“When I became president of this club, I was very passionate about making sure that everyone who came in contact with me through the club felt appreciated and supported. I know firsthand that witnessing someone battle cancer is no easy task and it takes a toll on you emotionally and physically,” said Humbert. “I didn’t join this club for myself, but to support those currently facing the battle and to find a cure so that one day no child will have to witness a parent battle cancer.”

Before the relay began, club members honored local cancer survivors with a dinner. Dr. Catherine Richmond-Cullen, a local educator and cancer survivor, kicked off the relay, which begins each year with a survivor lap. Halfway through the event, students held a luminaria ceremony, lighting candles in paper bags around the track that bore the names of people who have battled cancer. 

Alexa Reigstad, the chairperson of the Relay for Life event and a university senior nursing major from Sparta, N.J., added that the club is “a place to understand cancer and fight back in all ways possible.”

“Over the years I have had family members diagnosed with cancer, and knowing that just because I can’t cure cancer doesn’t mean I still can’t do something to help.”

The majority of the money raised by the CAC chapter will stay in Lackawanna County to help local cancer survivors through research and patient and family support programs, Humbert said.

To participate in ALS Awareness Club fundraisers:
The baseball cap sale: Price is $13 per cap and can be purchased during the week of May 5 on the second floor of the DeNaples Center. For additional information, email uofsalsawarenessclub@gmail.com.
RailRiders Baseball Game: Sunday, May 11, at 1:05 p.m. Tickets are $3 for University of Scranton students and $8 for non-students and must be purchased through the club in order for part of the proceeds to benefit ALS efforts. Tickets are available on the second floor of the DeNaples Center the week of May 5, by calling 570-941-4094, or by emailing uofsalsawarenessclub@gmail.com

To participation in Colleges Against Cancer Relay for Life:
Donations can be made through www.relayforlife.org/pauofs

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