A Reason To Relay

Photo by Samantha Schwartz

Screen shot 2013-04-18 at 4.03.11 PM

David Manis, fourth-year business major:

In the months leading up to his senior year of high school, Relay for Life Co-Chair David Manis was making plans to run.

After covering countless miles training for cross-country track throughout his teenage years, Manis said he was in the best shape of his life. However, when a routine pre-season visit to the doctor revealed some abnormalities, he found out he had testicular cancer.

“I really wanted to run, but I realized that it just wasn’t going to happen,” Manis said.

Manis spent the rest of his senior year receiving treatments, but continued attending school. Traveling back and forth from his chemotherapy appointments and classes, Manis said he would spend his better weeks visiting potential colleges and attending track meets to cheer on his teammates, all while planning for the future.

Manis was in remission in March 2009. By August, he was enrolled in classes like any other first-year student.

He soon joined the Relay for Life committee and began sharing his story, working to raise awareness about the already well-known disease.

“Nearly every person has a connection with cancer. It’s not a rare disease,” Manis said. “And until we find a cure, there are still people who need help.”

In his time as co-chair, Manis has used his business skills to reorganize the way the committee was run. Last year, the team was able to raise nearly $24,583. Manis said this increase was primarily due to the commitment of his committee to advertising and bringing attention to their cause year round.

For this year’s relay, Manis said the organization has already raised $19,000, and he anticipates that they will reach nearly $30,000 by the end of the event.

Donna Coane, a first-year art education major:

While in the pediatrics unit of Stony Brook University Hospital, first-year art education major Donna Coane would crotchet small stuffed animals and draw pictures for the younger kids receiving treatment. She said she knew even then that working with the kids and with her art was what she wanted to do.

Coane was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma — a rare form of tissue cancer located in her face — during her junior year of high school, but said staying positive despite her illness was always important.

“When I was sick, I knew I wanted to work to stay positive,” Coane said. “Bad things happen when you lose that [positivity].”

Coane joined the Relay committee this year as the survivorship chair. Though she participated and gave a speech during her high school’s first Relay for Life while she was sick in May of 2012, Coane said she is looking forward to her first college Relay event.

“It’s a really fun event to bond with people, to learn more about cancer and those who have someone affected by it,” Coane said.

Coane said Relay for Life is an event that inspires awareness, empathy and, ultimately, hope.

“You hear about other people’s trials and tribulations,” Coane said. “It’s important for people to know that you can get past this.”

Ben Abrams, a second-year secondary education major:

Ben Abrams’ experience with Relay for Life began with a victory lap.

His friend Simon, who had been diagnosed with brain cancer in the sixth grade, was walking around the track. Abrams said Simon continued to walk throughout the event, ultimately completing 104 laps. Even when it became too hard to continue walking on the concrete track, Simon kept walking. He moved to the grass where it was softer.

That’s how he lived his life, Abrams said, setting goals and following through regardless of his illness.

“It was such a celebratory night,” Abrams said. “Simon had good years and bad years and eleventh grade was a great year.”

One year later, just before Relay and one month shy of graduation, Simon died. Abrams said he took time out of the night to reflect and think about his friend.

“I took an hour or so to reflect for Simon and I promised I would do as much as I possibly could for Relay,” Abrams said. “He is always on my mind.”

Since coming to college, Abrams has been a part of the Relay for Life Committee at New Paltz. In the midst of the chaos of the event, Abrams said he still likes to reflect and take inventory of everything the group has done for the cause.

Abrams said he likes to see the diverse group of people from different parts of the New Paltz community participate in the activities and honoring the memories of their loved ones.

“I like to capture a panorama view of the event and just to see a community come together for a common cause,” Abrams said. “That moment, that’s it.”