Clark U. Relay for Life raises $16,000, honors co-founder Cassandra McCann ’11

On April 10-11, Clarkies Against Cancer held their annual Relay for Life event on the Clark campus in the Kneller Athletic Center. Approximately 200 people participated and raised $16,000 for the cause. In many ways, the event mirrored Relays of the past, only this year, the organizers and participants made a concerted effort to remember a very special young woman who was one of the reasons the event is held here in the first place.

Cassandra McCann (left) and Diana Gasparyan, a fellow from Russia, who was housed in Philosophy. March 2010. The late Cassandra McCann (left) and Diana Gasparyan, a fellow from Russia, who was housed in Philosophy. March 2010.

On March 2, Cassandra McCann '11, a passionate and devoted cancer crusader who, along with her friend Emily Corbett '11, brought Relay to the Clark campus in 2009, lost her own battle with a gastrointestinal cancer. Emma Weiner '15, current president of the student organization, made sure McCann's spirit was celebrated and remembered this year. The Relay Committee and club officers promoted the event, including the hashtag #ClarkiesForCassandra, and shared photos of students holding signs recognizing Cassandra's fight. Friends Rose Kamsler'13 and Rachel Monge '13 who chaired the Relay in 2013, spoke about Cassandra during the Luminaria ceremony that evening. Kamsler even created a video from photos of McCann's undergraduate years. "I am happy we were able to do something meaningful for Cassandra and all of her loved ones, to show that we still care so much about the club she brought to Clark and the cause that she fought 'til the very end," said Weiner. Maureen Hession, managerial secretary in Clark's Philosophy Department, was a friend of McCann's and shared an office with her when she served as a work study in the department.

From left to right: Nichole Lopez '12, Maureen Hession from Clark's Philosophy Department, and Cassandra's roommate Lisa Taylor '11 hold up a plaque that the American Cancer Society created honoring McCann. From left to right: Nichole Lopez '12, Maureen Hession from Clark's Philosophy Department, and Cassandra's roommate Lisa Taylor '11 hold up a plaque that the American Cancer Society created honoring McCann.

"Cassandra landed her dream job in the film industry in Los Angeles in October 2013. She was on her way to stardom, when, in December of 2013, she learned she had stomach cancer," she said. Hession hung on to hope that Cassandra would win her battle, and was devastated to learn her cancer was terminal. "I prayed and prayed that Cassandra would prove them wrong. I guess God had other plans for our sweet Cassandra. Now, we are left trying to learn acceptance. My heart will mend but it will always have a scar on it for our dear Cassandra. She was a beauty; the world lost an angel," said Hession. When it came to raising funds to fight cancer, Hession said "Cassandra was relentless in her mission to raise funds for Relay." The American Cancer Society created a special plaque to recognize Cassandra's devotion to Relay. It will hang in Beck House where she spent many hours as an undergraduate. "She made her mark here in Philosophy and we are forever blessed to have known her. It is still so hard to think that she is gone. Gone but never forgotten!" said Hession.

Front to back: Emma Philips '17, Dayna Ankermann '16, Emma Weiner '15, Sarah Clay '15 and Nina Mariotti '17 play Twister in the Kneller Athletic Center during Clark's Relay for Life. Front to back: Emma Philips '17, Dayna Ankermann '16, Emma Weiner '15, Sarah Clay '15 and Nina Mariotti '17 play Twister in the Kneller Athletic Center during Clark's Relay for Life.

Yannah Preta '11 M.P.A. '12, who also served as a work study with Cassandra, was one of several Clark alumni who returned to campus to participate in the event in memory of her friend. And, as in previous years, Clark undergraduates embraced and supported the event. "Cassandra's passion for Relay for Life and [for] participating in the Clark community really inspired us," said Roisin Henry '17, team leader for the Outing Club Team. Even though the theme of this year's Relay was "games" and in spite of the fact that there were ample opportunities to socialize and have fun at the event, Henry said Relay was a solemn event.

"There were lots of tough moments but they were made a little easier surrounded by so many awesome and compassionate Clarkies," said Henry.