Zach Dane looks like a happy young man. The 21-year-old Syosset native is never short of smile when passing others on campus, but many people don’t know he is among the millions of Americans who have lost a loved one to cancer.
In 1999, Dane’s mother was diagnosed with adrenal carcinoma and was told she only had three months to live.
Three years later, she died at age 44.
“I relay to show her that things can change you. Nobody’s perfect, things can happen, and you can become who you want to become,” said Dane.
On April 28, Dane joined 1,500 Hofstra University students at its fifth Relay for Life to honor his mother and others who have been affected by cancer. The event, which had young people walking and throwing fundraisers overnight, raised $107,000 for the American Cancer Society.
“Everyone knows someone or something to be affect by cancer and this event just unites everyone that’s here,” said Dane.
Ortal Weinberg joined Dane in organizing the entire event for a full year.
In January, Weinberg’s grandmother, Paula Fried, a holocaust survivor, lost her battle with pancreatic cancer at age 85.
“She’s my role model. She’s been there through everything and it’s really important for me to do this for her,” said Weinberg as she fought back tears.
Walked for 12 hours
“For Hofstra, it’s the one event that unites all of campus,” said Dane. “It makes it so that everyone has something to be connected to.
After the night fell dark, over a thousand people gathered by the stage to hear stories of cancer battles won and lost. Emily Lovejoy, 22, shared the story of her mother who was killed by cancer in October.
Tears fell down her cheeks as she choked on her words. Katie Friedman, a Relay for Life Hofstra coordinator hugged Lovejoy as she described her last few moments with her mother.
After the speeches, students walked slowly around the course holding each other and stopping at the memorial luminaries that lined the field.
“It’s great to be a part of something this big,” said Dane, his eyes red from crying.
During the silent walk, Dane collapsed by his mother’s luminary and slowly, students gathered around him, sitting in a circle and bowing their heads in silence.
“I couldn’t move and couldn’t function. I looked around and there were 60, 70, 80 people that I didn’t even know sitting around me,” said Dane. “It was the most remarkable experience.”
Graph by: Alexi Knock
Source: Eddie Mouradian, American Cancer Society