More than 450 students came together to work out and celebrate the lives of Blaine Steinberg and Torin Tucker, both members of the Class of 2015 who died suddenly last year—Tucker from a rare undiagnosed heart anomaly and Steinberg from a heart attack—at the first annual Memorial Challenge at Memorial Field last Saturday. The event raised $35,672, surpassing its goal of $30,000, which will go toward cardiac research at the Heart and Vascular Center at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.
The event consisted of a 27-minute circuit of CrossFit- and Nordic ski-themed exercises at multiple challenge levels to be inclusive of participants at all fitness levels.
The 54 registered teams represented a wide range of students, including several fraternities, sororities and athletic teams, Adam Fishman ’15, one of the 14 Memorial Challenge organizers, said.
Carrie Wolf ’15, another organizer, said that the event had a great turnout with students “from all different walks of campus.”
She said that it was important for members of the Class of 2015 to commemorate the tragedy of losing two classmates.
“Last year was such a difficult one for us,” Wolf said. “With graduation approaching, I think we needed this bonding experience and this moment of remembrance.”
Since they began collecting donations in late April, there have been 1,098 contributions, and fundraising will remain open for one more week, organizer Jessie Frieder ’15 wrote in an email.
Freider said that the organizers had the idea for the fundraiser about a year ago and began working on the project last fall. Dartmouth Peak Performance advisors, Positive Tracks fundraiser planners and the Children’s Hospital at DHMC helped advise the team, she said.
“I had a big smile on my face,” Frieder said. “It was such an awesome scene to see all my friends and people I don’t even know ready to go and having fun.”
The event started with an opening ceremony which included short speeches and anecdotes from the Steinberg and Tucker families.
Scott Tucker, Tucker’s father, said he felt overwhelmed by the event and “more connected” to the Dartmouth family.
“It’s really heartwarming to have such a great, enthusiastic turnout for [Tucker] and [Steinberg],” Scott Tucker said. “He was obviously really important to these people, as they were to him.”
He said that Tucker and Steinberg’s friends “took it on themselves” to create this event and was pleased by the end result.
“It’s one of the things I cherish — having connections with friends of [Tucker],” he said.
Tucker said that he hopes that this event becomes a tradition to “remember [Tucker] and [Steinberg] and the lives they lived.”
Janine Leger ’15, another event organizer, said that the event showed how committed students were to their peers.
“It reminded me that people here do love community,” Leger said. “If you’re willing to put the time and the effort around causes that people care about, the community will rally around it.”
She said that the purpose of the Memorial Day Challenge was to show support for the families of Steinberg and Tucker and raise awareness about cardiac issues that are “becoming more prevalent today.”
“The most important part of the entire event that was so special to see was the appreciation of the parents,” Leger said. “Allowing the parents to be reminded of how much people care here and how supportive the community is, so that when times do get rough, its something that they can fall back on.”
She said that she drew her inspiration for the event from the support she felt during a bike ride in memory of Steinberg she did. She raised $5,000 for the athletic department, where Steinberg had worked in fundraising, that the department then used to provide T-shirts.
Leger added that the Special Programs and Events Committee provided the bulk of funding for the event at $3,000, and donations from Greek houses also allowed the event to run smoothly.
Sami Abreu ’16, a participant, said that although she did not know Steinberg well, she felt that the event was a “positive way to get people to remember” through doing what both of them loved to do — workout.
She said the event felt like a celebration rather than a memorial. The event built community and gave students a sense of accomplishment, Abreu said.
“We are a community, and we care about each other and we care about what happens to people in our community,” Abreu said. “We all come out to do something great for them, and that was awesome to see.”
Students from all classes participated in the event, Fishman said. He said that the event showed that Dartmouth is “an absolute family.”
“People at Dartmouth are the most important asset we have,” he said.
Frieder said that the event was a great opportunity for first-year students to “rally around their classmates” and feel completely a part of the Dartmouth community.
Fishman said that the event went smoothly for the most part, barring an issue with electricity on the field. He said that due to construction, the electricity needed to power the scoreboard and other field utilities was provided by a small generator rather than the usual energy source.
Multiple organizers said they hope that the event will become an annual fundraiser spanning Memorial Day weekend.
“Making people take an hour or two hours out their day once a year to remember them and that their memory will now live on at Dartmouth was incredible to see and incredible to work toward,” Leger said.
The event will run next year under the leadership of Kristen Hinckley ’17, Ches Gundrum ’17 and Mary O’Connell ’16, all of whom helped plan this year’s challenge, Wolf said.
Other organizers included Janine Leger, Adam Frank, Elizabeth Blackburn, Jesse Heussner, Jake Becker, Matt MacDowell, Stuart Maeder and Rick Pinkston, all members of the Class of 2015, and 82 people volunteered at the event.
Update (June 5, 2015):
This article has been updated to include an interview with event organizer Janine Leger ’15.