By Tien-Shun Lee
When a group of Chinese women who play tennis together in Cunningham Park heard that the American Cancer Society is holding a Relay for Life fund-raising event at St. John’s University, they formed a team of 13 people and raised $1,200 for the cause.
The tennis players are one of 66 teams from various community organizations, schools and companies that have raised money through sponsors for the American Cancer Society. Team members have committed to taking turns walking or running, relay-style, around the St. John’s University track from around 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 14, to 8 a.m. Sunday, June 15.
“One of our friends is on the staff of the American Cancer Society, so we decided to form the Ten Nice tennis team and get involved,” said Teresa Lam, the leader of the tennis team.
As is traditional with the thousands of Relay for Life fund-raising events that have been held throughout the country since 1985, teams will camp out in tents in the field around the track. Events planned for the night include a 9:30 p.m. “Luminaria” candle-lighting ceremony in honor of those who have died of cancer, morning tai-chi exercises, games such as mahjong and egg-on-spoon relays, and entertainment including singing, dancing and hula-hooping.
“It’s going to be a wonderful, fun-filled and healthy event,” said Jason Fu, a pension plan administrator who spent many volunteer hours organizing the event. Fu’s father died from cancer 11 years ago.
The St. John’s Relay for Life, one of three in Queens and 11 in the city this year, is special because it is the only relay event where multicultural entertainment and food is planned to accompany the walking, Fu said.
“With Chinese culture, food is the No. 1 thing; we’ve got to address our stomachs,” Fu said. “So there’s going to be good food, from Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts to Chinese pancakes, cold noodles and kimchi.”
CBS news anchor woman Cindy Hsu has agreed to be the master of ceremonies for the event. Councilmen John Liu (D-Flushing) and Jim Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) are expected to make guest appearances.
Fu estimated that 1,000 to 2,000 people will attend the event, including registered team members, volunteers and unregistered people who are welcome to come support the cause and enjoy the activities.
“It’s open to the community. You can just show up, you can walk, buy food, merchandise,” said Ming-Der Chang, the executive director of the eastern division Chinese unit of the American Cancer Society. “To us, the festival part is very important.”
A team from MONY, a financial planning company, won the American Cancer Society’s Royal Ambassador Award for raising $15,000, the greatest amount of money out of all the teams.
“Personally, I just lost my sister who is two years younger than me to cancer,” said Kenneth Jones, a member of the MONY team. “It’s critical that we support organizations like this one.”
Fu said on average, each member of a team raises about $100. Money goes toward funding cancer research, education and outreach, patient and family services and advocacy for anticancer legislation such as the smoking ban.
“The American Cancer Society is the largest funder of cancer research in the world, followed by the U.S. government,” said David Golub, a regional vice president of the organization.
At the relay event, an $807,000 check from the American Cancer Society will be presented to the biology research department of St. John’s University.
“We’re going to defeat cancer primarily through research,” Golub said.
Rosetta Garrett, 52, an organizer of the Greenway Angels team, said she was personally motivated to support the cause because she had recently lost a close friend and a mother-in-law to cancer. The Greenway Angels group helps raise money for charities.
“It’s been a lot of tragedy,” Garrett said. “I’m here today, but who knows what tomorrow will bring.”
Reach reporter Tien-Shun Lee by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com, or call 718-229-0300, ext. 155.