FIU’s signature student-led fundraisers garner $97k in support for lifesaving causes in Spring 2024

Relay for Life, Dance Marathon and Out of the Darkness Campus Walk benefit awareness efforts and research to end some of the leading causes of death in the U.S.

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Hundreds of FIU students rallied this Spring to raise awareness and financial support for nationwide causes that aim to end cancer, prevent suicide, and find healthcare solutions for children suffering critical illnesses. Through the annual Relay for Life, Out of the Darkness Campus Walk and Roarthon (FIU’s Dance Marathon), Panthers collectively raised more than $97,000.

The festivities kicked off March 15 with the 20th anniversary of FIU’s Relay for Life, this year presented by Baptist Health Cancer Care. Relay for Life supports the American Cancer Society (ACS), which funds medical research to find cures and supports patients undergoing treatment.

relay-2024.jpgCancer survivors take the honorary first lap around the Ryder Business Loop at the 20th anniversary of FIU's Relay for Life

Relay for Life consists of various team-based events, including walking laps around the Ryder Business Loop, cutting and donating locks of hair in solidarity with patients undergoing chemotherapy, lighting luminaries in honor of loved ones lost to cancer, stage performances by student groups, and more. Teams gather in support of friends and family who are currently battling cancer or in memory of those lost because of it.

Panthers exceeded last year’s fundraising total and mobilized 48 student and community teams to raise $43,253. According to ACS representative Genesis Barraza, this equates to more than 840 free rides to treatment for patients or over 600 free nights of lodging for patients undergoing treatment away from home.

“We are extremely grateful to celebrate 20 years of savings lives together alongside an extraordinary group of student leaders here at FIU,” Barraza said. “Knowing that many patients stop treatment when they are unable to find transportation or affordable stays while seeing specialists, the students’ efforts truly are closing the gap to care and improving survival rates. I hope they are as proud of themselves as I am of them.”

The following morning, students and community members gathered for a two-mile trek across the Modesto A. Maidique Campus in support of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). The annual Out of the Darkness Campus Walk brings Panthers together to remember those who have died by suicide, raise money for prevention and awareness efforts, and highlight the mental wellness resources available to Panthers.

This year, teams raised $33,833 against a goal of $25,000. AFSP utilizes funds collected at campus walks nationwide to catalyze their prevention efforts. For example, efforts in 2023 resulted in renewed federal funding for crisis services, including for 988 — The Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. FIU’s 2023 walk was ranked No. 1 among more than 170 campuses.

ootd-24.jpgWalkers gather in the Graham Center before commencing the two-mile journey around campus at the 2024 Out of the Darkness Campus Walk

“Sadly, FIU is no stranger to suicide. But I am so proud of our community for the heightened care they have shown one another, particularly this year. Referrals for students of concern by fellow students, faculty, and staff have never been higher. It is through those efforts, the great work by the Student Health and Wellness team, and awareness events like this walk that we are able to be proactive and save lives,” said Brenezza DaParre Garcia, associate vice president for FIU Student Health and Wellness.

Rounding out the fundraising season, students and friends danced the night away at Roarthon, FIU’s annual Dance Marathon in support of Miami-based Nicklaus Children’s Hospital.

Nationwide Dance Marathon efforts help fund medical research and lifesaving care for children battling major illnesses at Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.

Panthers raised $21,142 through the 12-hour groove fest. Topping the leaderboard were student Sophie Eguiguren, who individually raised nearly $1,800, and the Phi Mu team, who brought in more than $4,100.

Students who are interested in participating in next year’s philanthropic events are encouraged to follow the FIU Center for Leadership and Service and FIU Student Health and Wellness on Instagram.