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Bears host breast cancer awareness events

Football, men’s, women’s crew hold fundraising events, like sponsored bench pressing

This week, the football, men’s crew and women’s crew teams held events on campus to raise money and awareness for cancer research and survivors.

The football team held its annual Bench Press for Cancer event Monday on the Main Green. From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., players came together to raise money for Miriam Hospital’s Cancer Survivorship Program for Young Adults. Two bench press stations, pink t-shirts, a speaker and free food — donated from nearby businesses like Dunkin’ Donuts and Hope Street Pizza — welcomed students to the Green, encouraging them todonate and participate themselves.

Players were encouraged to get friends, family and alums to sponsor them, either paying a certain amount per rep or donating at a flat rate, said Brett Estes ’18, organizer of the event.

To Estes, it’s important to do events like these because “cancer affects everyone.” He said he feels that student athletes “have a lot going for them,”so it’s important to help those who aren’t as fortunate.

Other sports teams came out to the event, including women’s volleyball and hockey. From the volleyball team, Shirin Tooloee ’18 bench pressed 75 lbs 25 times while a small crowd cheered her on.

“I feel good out here supporting a good cause for some of my good friends on the football team.” she said. “We had our ALS fundraiser last month and they supported us, so it was important to get my team out here and support as well.”

The football team has raised money under the name “Bench Press for Cancer” for ten years, but it originally began fundraising in 2004, when Lawrence Rubia ’04, team captain at the time, was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma. According to Head Coach Phil Estes P’18, the team was at first trying to offset costs for the Rubia family. After Rubia passed away in 2005, the team starting giving to the American Cancer Society, but decided later to focus their efforts on local patients, and began donating to Rhode Island’s Miriam Hospital. “We have a chance to see local people,” the coach said, stressing the importance of athletes who spend a lot of time in the limelight getting involved.

Dewey Jarvis ’17.5 agreed that it was important to get involved. Even though the event isn’t mandatory for players, everyone should come out because it is relatively easy “to find donors, buy a t-shirt, hang out and have fun,” he said. Jarvis has been to Miriam Hospital and met with the people who benefited from the team’s donations. He said he loved seeing how “they appreciated it so much.”

According to the team’s Crowdrise fundraising website, it hopes to raise $25,000, adding to the more than $100,000 they’ve already raised since 2004.

Four rowing machines lined the edge of the Main Green from 12 to 1 p.m. Wednesday for the Pull for a Cure event, Brown Crew’s annual Breast Cancer Fundraiser. The one day event precedes this weekend’s Head of the Charles Regattain Boston.

Similar to Bench Press for Cancer, the crew team drew participation from other Brown athletes who were looking to compete for a good cause. Both men’s hockey and lacrosse were represented at the event, forming teams to row against each other.

The competition quickly heated up, with one of the “erg” machines damaged within 15 minutes of the event’s start. Teammates quickly worked together to get feet in and out of velcro straps, while others urged the “rowers” to go faster and faster. Some participants even went so far as to fall off the machines while their feet were still strapped in.

“We’re here to win, (to) stomp out cancer.” said Luke Kania ’21, after he and some of his fellow hockey players took on the rowing machines themselves.

Funds raised from all the fun and games will be donated to the breast cancer research arm of the American Cancer Society. Dan Aziz ’11 started the fundraiser in 2009 when he was a junior on the men’s rowing team.

Aziz was inspired when a family friend — who saved him from drowning after he broke his neck in a childhood accident — was diagnosed with breast cancer. After learning that a fellow teammate lost his mother to breast cancer, Aziz came up with an idea: The Head of the Charles event in Boston, held each October, could be a venue to support Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Up until 2009, the crew team wore “wacky costumes” to race in the event because the regatta didn’t count towards national standings. The team now shows up in colors to support breast cancer, after Aziz convinced Norman Alpert ’80, who rowed during his years at Brown, to buy everyone pink racing suits. By asking friends, family and alums, Aziz and the team were able to raise $25,000 that first fall.

Every year since, a group of juniors from both the men and women’s teams are responsible for organizing the event. For Claire Ryan ’19, who was one of this year’s organizers, the main goal of the event was awareness.

Jack Abeel ’19 of the men’s crew team emphasized the need for athletes to take advantage of their team’s organization and large size in doing philanthropic work. “You also have these huge networks of alumni who bought into the team and they want to help you succeed,” Abeel said.

For Aziz, looking back to the event’s conception,“It feels super great … initially I didn’t know it would take off and now it’s become a part of Brown’s tradition.”

Nine years since its conception, Aziz says he is excited to see how much bigger Pull for a Cure can get.


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