American Cancer Society cancels Relay for Life at Kean

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By Rose Marie Kitchen | Published April 7, 2017

After four years, the American Cancer Society (ACS) has officially put their Relay for Life partnership with Kean University on hold because of fundraising benefits.

Relay for Life is a team fundraising event where members take turns walking for hopes to live in a world without cancer. Each event lasts from 6-24 hours to signify that cancer never sleeps.

The Office of Student Government has run Relay for Life for the last four years.

“In a nutshell, it goes down to being respectful, with what comes in,” said Patricia Ortiz, senior manager for Relay for Life’s ACS eastern division. “Some events require a cost and when you look at those things together and the return in the investment, it’s not in line.”

Participants and teams from the 2016 Relay for Life at Kean University. Credit: Rose Marie Kitchen

Credit: Rose Marie Kitchen

It was explained as a decision that had to be made, as well as a decision that is not unusual.

“With any event, not only at Kean, every year we look at every fundraising efforts that we have, said Ortiz. “Discontinuing or merging any community events is not an unusual thing that happens. We need to ensure that we are providing the most out of the donor dollar and sometimes the return and investment.”

First notice about the cancellation was sent via email by Marquiale Davis, executive vice president of funded groups for the Office of Student Government., on Dec. 12, 2016. The email was sent to only funded group officers who were currently holding a seat on a funded club executive board, at the time.

Davis is a student worker at Kean, who is employed within the Student Organization office.

Student Organization has hosted Relay for Life for the last four years. All student clubs are first invited to participate in Relay for Life in hopes to create student morale.

Student Organization sat down and spoke with a representative from the ACS back in November.

“A representative from American Cancer Society came to meet with us [Student Organization] in November,” said Carli Hench, Managing Assistant Director for the Office of Student Government. “They said they are doing all around restructuring and changing the format of certain events; moving away from the traditional relay event, in order to cut costs

Participants and teams from the 2016 Relay for Life at Kean University. Credit: Rose Marie Kitchen

Credit: Rose Marie Kitchen

and ensure more fundraising money goes to the cause instead of covering the costs of the events themselves.”

At a time when the Relay for Life teams would be in full force with fundraising efforts, participants from years prior instead received a cancellation notice from ACS via email on March 2.

“Our decision in no way suggests that the event has not been valuable,” stated in the email from ACS. “We know that your support, participation and dedication to the Kean Relay for Life made it an empowering and special event for many in your community.”

According to the Office of Student Government and ACS, the number of Kean participants and the money raised has increased every year from 2013 to 2016. Altogether, the 35-37 teams of 350 participants has raised:

2013 – $6,100.00 | 2014 – $14,727.00 | 2015 – $19,152.00 | 2016 – $22,700.00

Totals were provided from the Office of Student Government and confirmed by ACS. Altogether, the average participants were 350 with an average of 35-37 teams.

Although the partnership between ACS and Kean is currently on hold, it does not mean the end of Relay for Life at Kean forever. It is possible for Relay for Life to be back at Kean with more student representation and morale.

“It’s not that we don’t want the representation within the student body, we do,” said Ortiz. “It was more creating that culture in the school and spreading that awareness and getting more students involved, that is what we find the success of these campus events are. When the students are really behind it and they start creating that awareness.”

There are other local Relay for Life events for anyone who is interested in participating.

For more information in Bergen, Essex, Hudson and Union counties, call 1-800-227-2345, or visit

“The hope is, that although you are not going to have an actual relay at Kean, any student who still does want to support their organization is still able to, by either participating in a near event, continue to volunteer or even their own initiative,” said Ortiz.

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