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Pulling an All-Nighter to Fight Cancer

BU’s first Relay for Life hopes for 1,000 participants


Siddartha Sharma (CAS’10) (from top), Hannah Herzog (CGS’09, CAS’11), and Maya Viner (CAS’12) with her father.

Maya Viner is doing it because her father passed away from cancer last year.

Hannah Herzog is doing it because she is a cancer survivor.

Siddartha Sharma is doing it because his mother has been diagnosed with cancer twice since his freshman year in high school.

They’re joining the first annual BU Relay for Life tomorrow evening at the Track and Tennis Center. Having already painted the campus purple earlier this semester to bring attention to the relay, the BU chapter of Colleges Against Cancer (CAC) is gearing up for one of the biggest events run by a student organization the campus has ever seen.

Now the signature annual event for the American Cancer Society, here’s how the Relay for Life works:

Students camp out all night, as members from each team take turns walking or running around the track. All teams will have at least one person moving at all times. Throughout the night, people light small luminaria, creating points of moving light, like fireflies. Consisting of a small bag containing a candle set in sand, each luminaria commemorates a life lost to the disease or celebrates a successful fight against it. People donate to sponsor walkers and teams.

In past years, BU students have participated in Relay for Life at Harvard. But this year BU has its own CAC chapter and is relaying right here; more than 800 students already have signed up. The goal is to form 100 teams, with 1,000 participants, and raise $100,000.

When freshman Viner’s father was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer four years ago, the doctors told him he had six weeks to live. He outlasted all their expectations, passing away two and a half years later.

“When you first find out, you think it’s shocking,” says Viner (CAS’12). “You never expect it to happen to you.” She intends to remain involved in the fight against cancer after college, whether doing research in medical school or with more volunteer work. “I think my dad would have been proud that I’m showing support for this cause,” she adds. “Some people are scared by situations like this and some people are willing to go above and beyond.”

Herzog will be undertaking her second relay; last year she participated at Harvard. Herzog (CGS’09, CAS’11) was only two years old when doctors found that she had a brain tumor. She also has a sorority sister whose mother died of cancer.

“Relay definitely gives you an empowering feeling,” she says. “Last year I also did Dance Marathon, but the difference is that Dance Marathon is so intense, since you have to dance for 18 hours straight. Relay for Life is not about the intensity. It’s more about the support, the community, and being together.”

Sharma (CAS’10), who also participated at Harvard last year, has helped organize this year’s event as the treasurer of BU’s CAC chapter. His mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002 and in 2006.

“This is something I’m doing to remember my mom and always be aware of her struggle,” he says. “I can’t be there at home to help her, so in a way this is like me being there for her.”

The intent of the relay, Sharma adds, is not only to raise money and spread awareness, but “to act as a kind of rallying point for the whole BU community.”

The first annual BU Relay for Life takes place at the Track and Tennis Center, 100 Ashford St., on Saturday, April 18, starting at 6 p.m. and ending at 6 a.m. on Sunday. Anyone can still join an existing team or start a new one tomorrow night. Click here for more information.

Davide Nardi will be pulling an all-nighter at the Track and Tennis Center tomorrow as a member of a Relay for Life team. He can be reached at dnardi@bu.edu.


3 Comments on Pulling an All-Nighter to Fight Cancer

  • Anna on 04.17.2009 at 8:37 am

    Hey Davide! Great story!

  • Peter Parker on 04.17.2009 at 12:44 pm


    Davide, great article! And thank you for giving up your time to a great cause! Bono would be proud.

    Your friendly neighborhood spider-man

  • Barbara Greene on 04.18.2009 at 11:34 pm

    Maya's Dad

    Hi Maya. Mom sent this to me and I am very proud of you and the others. Your
    acts of courage is a huge tribute to your Dad and your Mom. Good Luck.

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