Sept. 30, 2011
QUEENS, N.Y. - On Saturday, Sept. 24, as part of St. John’s 10th annual University Service Day, more than 400 members of the STJ community gathered together to help raise awareness and funding for the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation (PCRF) at the first-annual “Dribble For The Cure.” Through Dribble For The Cure, St. John’s and PCRF raised in excess of $21,000 of dollars for pediatric cancer research in the New York City area.
“Service Day has been going on for the last 10 years at St. John’s, and we have more than 1,500 students that provide community service throughout the area. We thought this would be a perfect opportunity to have a service site here on campus,” said Kathy Meehan, Associate Vice President for Athletics. “We created the Dribble to be the cornerstone of the day and we think we did that successfully. We had so much participation from the University community to host the event, and the outside community contributed donations. The combination created a fantastic day all around.”
Volunteers from the basketball teams, head coaches Steve Lavin and Kim Barnes Arico, the St. John’s band, dance and cheer support groups, and members of the national PCRF board among other campus and local volunteers were on hand for the 40-minute run/walk around campus and preceding festival outside Taffner Field House.
The event began with opening remarks from John Vallely, a UCLA men’s basketball Hall of Famer, Dribble For The Cure’s spokesperson and PCRF board member. Joining Vallely in welcoming the crowd on hand was Dr. Mitchell S. Cairo, the leading researcher for PCRF’s Laboratory at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital at Westchester Medical Center, New York Medical College, and St. John’s undergraduate student Shaun Latshaw, a pediatric cancer survivor. Cairo’s research has contributed to increased survival rates of childhood cancers, blood disorders and immunological diseases, while Latshaw gave an inspirational speech on his fight and remission from the disease.
“Today was an absolute tremendous day, very inspirational,” remarked Dr. Cairo. “It’s great to partner with St. John’s University and this has been a synergistic experience, where we were able to raise awareness about children who have cancer and their plight and the importance for research, while also helping educate students who are in a great academic center about the importance of public service and charity. Today was a perfect example and how to get something great out of it.”
“We have been doing this event at UCLA for the last three years and today was just like the inaugural event there,” said Nancy Franks, part of PCRF’s Executive Director. “Today was a terrific event, it was run well, we had great support of the entire athletics department and the men’s and women’s basketball teams. I am excited and I see this event as I saw the beginnings at UCLA, everyone had a good time, it was well run and next year we can hope for double participation.”
Lavin and Barnes Arico officially began the dribble, which extended around campus, through the Great Lawn and finished at Carnesecca Arena. Children from the Jamaica YMCA of Greater New York joined members of the basketball teams, staff and volunteers on the dribble through campus. At Carnesecca, Lavin and Barnes Arico introduced their 2011-12 men’s and women’s basketball teams to the crowd.
“I think one of the reasons our student-athletes come here is because St. John’s mission is so great, to help the community and to help those in need. Our players really believe in it and they want to be a part of it,” remarked Barnes Arico. “Today is really a special day for the University and it is a special day for our teams. We really stand for something and today really showed it, with the turnout and the enthusiasm of our teams and our local community.”
“Dribble for the Cure is such a natural fit for us. Under the St. John’s University Service Day umbrella, our team is able to champion the cause of finding a cure for cancer,” said Lavin. “The Johnnies can act as a catalyst to galvanize others to raise awareness and funding, so the medical experts here in New York can work toward improved care, and ultimately succeed in their battle against the disease.”
Currently, cancer kills more children and adolescents than any other disease. One in every 330 children in the U.S. will develop cancer before the age 19. Due to research like Dr. Cairo’s the cancer fatality rate has dropped more dramatically for children than for any other age group, and the survival rate in certain pediatric cancers has increased from 50 percent to greater than 80 percent since 1985. This progress can be attributed solely to research. Since August, PCRF along with St. John’s has been raising funding for cancer research through Dr. Cairo’s PCRF laboratory. St. John’s partnership was headlined by Saturday’s Dribble For The Cure Event.
About the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation (PCRF)
PCRF was established in 1982 to improve the care, quality of life and survival rate of children with malignant diseases. Since 1982, PCRF's dedicated volunteers have raised almost $30 million for pediatric cancer research. All funds raised from the St. John's Dribble for the Cure event will go directly to support the vital research of Mitchell S. Cairo, M.D. and the PCRF Research Laboratory at Maria Fareri Children's Hospital at Westchester Medical Center, New York Medical College in the fight against pediatric cancer and other lethal blood disorders.
PCRF is an independent, nonprofit organization governed by a volunteer Board of Directors comprised of community and business leaders, as well as parents of oncology patients. The Foundation is privately supported by donations from individuals, charitable foundations and businesses. PCRF also raises funds through sales of its holiday/everyday line of cards designed by children with cancer. A dedicated group of volunteers donate their time and talents to ensure that over 80 percent of funds raised go directly to pediatric cancer research.
About St. John's Men's Basketball
The first year of The Steve Lavin Era included a 21-12 overall record in 2010-11, marking St. John's most wins since the 2002-03 season, with six Top 25 victories, four over Top 10 opponents and an appearance in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2002. The USBWA District II Coach of the Year, Lavin transformed a team that finished in 13th place in the BIG EAST Conference last season at 6-12 to a squad that tied for third this year at 12-6 -only twice before has a jump of such magnitude occurred in BIG EAST Conference history. The Red Storm finished its season ranked 18th in the Associated Press Top 25, marking the first time it qualified for the postseason as a ranked team since 2000-01. The Red Storm, which posted a 7-1 record in eight regular season games at Madison Square Garden (capacity: 19,353) and a 5-2 record on campus at Carnesecca Arena (capacity: 5,602) saw its home attendance climb by 38.1 percent, marking the fourth-largest increase in NCAA Division I men's basketball.
About St. John's Women's Basketball
The 2010-11 St. John's women's basketball squad, under ninth-year head coach Kim Barnes Arico, continued to pave the way for the program's success as the Red Storm returned to the NCAA Tournament and advanced to the Round of 32 for the second-consecutive season, the first time in school history and was ranked for 16-straight weeks in the Associated Press Poll and 18-consecutive weeks in the ESPN/Coaches Poll (including the 2009-10 season). STJ celebrated its second-straight 20-win season and fourth of Barnes Arico's tenure. The excitement showed as St. John's had the 15th-largest increase in attendance per game in the nation in 2010-11. The Red Storm has come a long way during the Barnes Arico Era, as she took over a team that was 3-24 and winless in BIG EAST play and restored life and energy into a nationally competitive team every year. Under Barnes Arico, the Red Storm has made the BIG EAST tournament eight-straight seasons and has qualified for a postseason berth six out of the last seven years, including three trips to the NCAA Tournament.
About University Service Day
St. John's University annually celebrates University Service Day on or around the feast day of St. Vincent de Paul (Sept. 27), whose mission of service continues to inspire many to work towards social justice and the reduction of poverty. On this day, St. John's University serves its communities locally, nationally and globally through programs that include serving in soup kitchens and long-term care facilities, engaging disadvantaged children, cleaning and landscaping parks, painting schools and community centers and providing assistance with many area projects. The spirit of cooperation and generosity has led to the St. John's University Service Day mantra, "What a difference a day makes!"