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Runners, dancers descend on SJU for cancer benefit

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The St. John's University football field was transformed Saturday afternoon from a sporting arena to a multicultural festival with traditional Asian dance performances, stands selling Korean pancakes and pork buns, and hundreds of people milling about speaking Asian languages.

"It's great seeing how many people care for cancer," said Elizabeth Hope, 14, as she helped set up a tent where she and other members of the Greenway Angels charity organization planned to camp out from Saturday night to Sunday morning during the American Cancer Society's Relay For Life event.

The fund-raising effort kicked off at around 5 p.m. with a singing of the national anthem and welcoming speeches made by Jason Fu and Nora Wang, American Cancer Society volunteers who spent many hours organizing the multicultural festival.

At 5:30 p.m., cancer survivors made the first relay lap around the track, before they were joined by other ACS supporters. Members of about 66 teams from various community organizations, schools and companies took turns walking relay-style all night long until the event ended at about 8 a.m. Sunday morning.

The first Relay For Life fund-raiser was held in 1985, according to David Golub, a regional vice president of the ACS. Since then thousands of overnight Relay For Life events have been held throughout the country. The St. John's Relay For Life was the third one to be held in the borough this year. It was the first one in the city that featured multicultural entertainment and food.

"The highlight so far was our performance dancing, rapping and stepping," said Hope at around 8 p.m. Saturday, while traditional Chinese drum music accompanied a Chinese dancer on stage. "Now I'm going to try some of the foods."

Stage performances that included singing, dancing, kung-fu, yo-yo acts and "raving" took place from 6 p.m. to about 8:30 p.m. At 9 p.m., candles were lighted during a "Luminaria" ceremony to honor those who have died of cancer.

After the candle-lighting ceremony, athletic competitions were held, including a hoola-hoop contest, a tire rolling relay, a three-legged race, a jump rope marathon and an egg-on-spoon relay. Non-athletic games including mahjong and cards were played throughout the night.

"My wife can do the hula hoop pretty well, so we thought we might as well organize a competition where we could win," said Chung Lam, a member of the Ten Nice tennis team that raised about $1,200 for the ACS.

A team from MONY, a financial planning company, raised $15,000 for the ACS, the largest amount out of all the teams that participated in the Relay For Life event.

Jimmy Poon, an ACS community outreach director, said about $500 was raised by selling homemade ice-cream that was donated for the event by Max & Mina's, an ice-cream parlor in Flushing.

Other food sold at stands around the track included spring rolls, scallion pancakes, rice noodles in broth, dumplings and sushi rolls. In addition, faux pearl jewelry, Chinese health supplements, Chinese name paintings, Relay For Life T-shirts and other souvenirs were sold to raise money for the ACS.

"This is my first time doing this event. It's very good. The performances are so nice," said Wendy Louie, the chairwoman of the Joy Luck Club, an organization of breast cancer survivors.

The event ended at around 8 a.m. Sunday after morning aerobic and tai-chi exercises.

Reach reporter Tien-Shun Lee by email at Timesledger@aol.com, or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.

Posted 7:08 pm, October 10, 2011
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