For every Relay For Life participant, there is someone special lost too soon to cancer. For the members of Washington University in St. Louis fraternity Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE), that person is brother Jacques De Villiers, who died last summer.
“Jacques is one of the most optimistic people, and we wanted to honor him,” said senior Andrew Fuchs, philanthropy co-chair of Sigma Alpha Epsilon and a Relay for Life organizer.
This weekend, some 1,200 students, faculty and staff will walk the Francis Field track during the annual 12-hour benefit for the American Cancer Society.
Highlights of the event, which begins at 6 p.m. Saturday, April 9, and ends at 6 a.m. Sunday, April 10, include themed laps; decorated luminaria honoring families and friends who have died of cancer; and performances from student a cappella and dance groups. Organizers hope to raise up to $200,000.
SAE, always a top fundraiser, is already on track to donate $30,000. Last weekend, the fraternity raised $9,000 toward its efforts at a benefit 5K run in Forest Park in honor of De Villiers, who died July 3, 2015, at age 21. Some 360 runners participated, and members of De Villiers’ family traveled from Ohio to attend as friends shared their memories. De Villiers was remembered as a good cook and great friend.
“He came into the fraternity to escape his illness and to just live his life,” Fuchs said. “And he did. He was amazing to be around.”
SAE plans to make the 5K an annual fundraiser in support of Relay For Life. The race will keep De Villiers’ memory alive and the money will bring hope to cancer patients.
“We all want to create a legacy, to do something that will last,” Fuchs said. “Relay For Life does that. I remember walking the track four years ago with a senior in the fraternity, seeing how committed he was. And now freshmen will have that experience.
“It’s a tradition that connects us all.”
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