Merrimack College’s Birthday-Themed Relay For Life

Amber Bean ’24 helped to plan the College’s annual fundraising event in Lawler Arena.

Amber Bean ’24 and the rest of Merrimack College’s Relay For Life organizing committee are working hard this year to celebrate more birthdays of those diagnosed with cancer.

“The theme of this year’s event is a birthday party,” Bean explained. “We’re going to decorate Lawler Arena like a huge birthday party. We’re going to have a cupcake food truck. But what we’re really excited about is our guest speaker.”

This year’s speaker was Tia Bee Stokes, who rose to popularity on social media during the COVID-19 pandemic. After being diagnosed with leukemia in 2020, she used TikTok dance videos to document each of her days battling the disease.

“She became a really inspirational figure to people, myself included, (through documenting) her entire journey, the ups and downs through all of it,” Bean said. “She’s in remission now and she’ll give us a survivor speech during the opening ceremonies.”

Merrimack’s Relay For Life took place on Saturday, April 20, in Lawler Arena. A national fundraising effort launched by the American Cancer Society, Relay For Life participants are sponsored by friends and family to walk as many laps during the event. As of Monday, April 22, Merrimack’s event raised more than $44,000.

Students and staff have been planning since this past August. Throughout the school year, they have sought donations at football games, sold T-shirts and snacks in residence halls and partnered with Chipotle in North Andover, MA, for a fundraising event.

“It’s really been awesome to see our fundraising goal go from zero to now more than $27,000 raised,” Bean explained. “Also, it’s amazing to see the dedication from our committee members and directors for this cause. Everybody puts in so much work.”

Bean first got involved with Relay For Life as a freshman. In the following two years, she served as advocacy director and was responsible for reaching out to cancer survivors, caregivers and current fighters to have them participate in the event. Now, she is one of Relay For Life of Merrimack’s four event leads overseeing all aspects of the event.

“It’s been a lot more work than I’ve ever done in the past but I’m loving it,” Bean said.

As a human development and human services and elementary education major, Bean hopes to someday work with elementary school children although it wasn’t what she initially sought out during her first year at Merrimack.

“Merrimack was kind of one of the only schools I looked at that had this human development and human services major,” she recalled. “It didn’t tie me down to elementary education – I could still explore other professions that work with kids.”

This fall, after graduation, she’ll be enrolled in Merrimack’s teacher education fellowship program and pursuing a master’s degree in moderate disabilities.

“I’ll be working at South Elementary School in Andover, MA, in fourth-grade special education,” Bean explained. “I might decide special education is my track or I might stick with the general education classroom, but I want to get that basic knowledge in special education. Even as a general classroom teacher, I’m going to have all types of students in my class.”

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