Gymnast Raisman Headlines Relay for Life Fundraiser

Merrimack is marching toward a $65,000 fundraising goal for cancer research during the college's 11th annual Relay for Life, which begins Friday at 6 p.m. at Lawler Arena.

World-renowned gymnast and Massachusetts native Aly Raisman will headline the event, sponsored by the American Cancer Society. Raisman will deliver brief remarks at 7 p.m., followed by a question-and-answer session with the audience.

More than 500 students, faculty and staff, comprising 55 teams, have registered to “compete” in the 12-hour fundraiser by taking turns walking or running around a track. As of Tuesday afternoon, organizers were 75 percent toward their fundraising goal.

“We do it to give back to the community,” said Mari Watson, coordinator of programming and student affinity groups, noting that 37,000 Massachusetts residents will be diagnosed with cancer in 2017. “There are so many people on this campus who are touched by cancer, whether it’s knowing somebody or having a friend or family member with the disease.”

Raisman, whose talk is part of the President’s Speaker Series, is the second-most decorated American gymnast of all time. She said in a statement that her participation honors her paternal grandmother, who died as a result of lung cancer.

“I’m passionate about helping others in the community, and I hope others will join me in supporting Relay for Life to save more lives, celebrate more lives and lead the fight for a world without cancer,” Raisman said.

In addition to Raisman, several Merrimack students will speak during the event. They include Shannon Bartkus ’17, of Bridgewater, Massachusetts, and Rachel Mignanelli ’18, of Arlington, Massachusetts, who will share stories of their personal battles with cancer, and Marisa Rainey ’17, of Bristol, Rhode Island, who will talk about her mother’s fight against the disease, which claims more than 600,000 Americans lives each year.

The American Cancer Society has sponsored Relay for Life for nearly 30 years. About 2.7 million people, including 97,500 in New England and 43,400 in Massachusetts, took part in 3,500 events around the country last year. Relays have raised about $6 billion since 1985, including $279 million last year in the United States.

For more information about the Relay for Life and how to donate, visit


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