The Duo Behind the Cause: FCLC’s Relay For Life’s Founding Fathers Balance Hope and Hard Work to Achieve Success


Brian DiCicco and Peter Muller, the co-chairs of Relay for Life, used a mix of grief, friendship and hope to bring the event to life on the FCLC campus last April, and they’re busy getting ready for round two! (Craig Calefate/The Observer)

Published: April 15, 2010

When you hear about a good cause, you assume there are some good people behind it. But when those people are more than good, when they are inspirations to their peers and their community, they deserve more than an assumption.

So is the case with Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC)’s Relay for Life Co-Chairs Brian DiCicco and Peter Muller.

Roommates, friends and student leaders who share the life-changing experience of losing their fathers to cancer, the duo is responsible for bringing Relay for Life to the FCLC campus for the first time last year, and they have been busy planning this year’s event, which takes place April 17.

The catch phrase of last year’s event, which drew over 200 students, was “I relay because…” and both Brian and Peter have very personal reasons for their commitments to the cause.

“When I was 5 years old, my father passed away from brain cancer. Since then, my maternal grandfather and late paternal grandmother have been diagnosed with different cancers,” said Muller, FCLC ’10. “With cancer having touched my life so closely, I was naturally drawn to volunteering with Relay for Life.”

“I lost my father to cancer during my freshman year at FCLC. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to face, watching him slowly deteriorate over his seven-year battle with the disease,” said DiCicco, FCLC ’10. “After losing him, I knew I wanted to fight the disease in any way that I could. And luckily I was able to find out about Relay for Life a year after losing him.”

It was through Muller that DiCicco discovered his way of fighting back; having been involved with the event since his freshman year of high school, Muller brought it to DiCicco’s attention, and the two participated in Relay for Life at the Rose Hill campus their sophomore year at Fordham.

“Peter and I, along with some of our close friends, formed an FCLC team and participated in Rose Hill’s event. Peter and I later talked about how we felt that FCLC should have its own event, and Peter then contacted the American Cancer Society. And things kind of progressed from there,” DiCicco said.

Some skeptical to the idea of fate may have a hard time explaining Muller and DiCicco’s meeting as mere coincidence. After becoming friends freshman year, bonding over their shared experiences and becoming roommates thereafter, the two undertook the daunting task of not only establishing an event on campus for the first time, but of making that event a success. Some could argue that its resounding success—the event raised almost $20,000—was in part due to the close bond between the two co-chairs of the committee.

“I consider [Brian] to be my best friend,” Muller said. “Given Brian’s personal connection to Relay, we were able to bond over something we normally wouldn’t have, thanks to working on Relay.”

“Peter and I have been roommates and best friends since freshman year,” DiCicco said. “We’ve become closer friends over the years, and I do believe that Relay has contributed to our friendship by giving us a common cause to invest ourselves in.”

And this bond doesn’t go unnoticed to those working closely with them on the events commitee.

“Peter and Brian bring this incredibly dynamic aspect to the committee,” said Aisha Blake, FCLC ’10, member of the Survivorship and Luminaria Committee. “They work off of each other so seamlessly and they share a real passion for the cause.”

“The first year they brought the event to this campus, no one knew what it was, but they put their heart and soul on the line for it, knowing and believing that it would be a success… Their commitment to this event is indescribable,” said Mindy Lai, FCLC ’12, member of the Fundraising Committee for Relay.

“The passion Brian and Peter both have for the cause is definitely something that contributes to the success of Relay for Life at FCLC,” said Lauren Evangelista, FCLC ’10, member of the Activities Commitee for Relay. “They fought long and hard to make something so important to them a shared activity for the student body.”

And after the successful completion of the FCLC’s first annual Relay for Life, the friends now have another shared experience to store in their memory banks.

“The whole event was just phenomenal. I had high hopes, but all my expectations were more than met!” DiCicco said. “My favorite moment was whenever I would look out on the plaza/track and see friends walking, dancing, laughing—enjoying each other while also making a difference.”

“It felt great playing a major role in bringing Relay for Life to Fordham last year,” Muller said. “This cause means a lot to me and bringing that to my campus and my community here at Fordham meant a lot to me. This is something I believe in and I was able to share it with Lincoln Center.”

“It honestly didn’t hit me until I had to get up on stage and welcome everyone to the event last year. Looking at the crowd of about 200 individuals, it all kind of clicked in my head. I was like, ‘Wow, I’m a part of an event that is bringing the FCLC community together for a great cause,’” DiCicco said. “That may sound corny, but that’s how I felt—and I still feel that way today. If I’m ever frustrated or discouraged with some aspect of Relay, I’ll think back to that moment on the stage, and I’ll start feeling better. It gives me hope.”

And while the duo undoubtedly has a resounding capacity for hope, it is their sheer hard work that results in an event of this magnitude being able to go off without a hitch.

“Peter and I each supervise an overall committee made up of FCLC students, which is divided into seven subcommittees. We then each supervise three and share one,” DiCicco said. “Peter and I have two meetings a week with the overall committee, along with a weekly meeting with Dan Patterson (who takes care of the logistical aspects of the event). We also maintain close contact with our staff partner from the American Cancer Society [and] meet separately with our subcommittees on an as-needed basis.”

And with all the hard work being put into FCLC’s second annual Relay for Life event, their expectations are higher than ever.

“My hope for this year is that people enjoy the event as much as they did last year and that we raise as much money on the day of as we did last year. In terms of a monetary goal for this year, our goal from the outset has been $50,000,” Muller said.

“I would like to see even more participants involved,” DiCicco said. “A lot of my goals have already been met, we have a larger committee, official corporate sponsors, along with more club team involvement on campus.”

In the large scope of things, Relay for Life has become much more than simply a fundraiser for a good cause: it  has been a resounding demonstration of the sense of community and support at FCLC.

“I have seen the tremendous spirit of Fordham come through in all of the participants who help make Relay what it is,” Muller said.

“Relay is a life changing experience—an opportunity to come together with your friends, family and community and help find a cure for cancer,” DiCicco said. “I’ve had people approach me and share their stories with me and it means so much, knowing that they have been personally touched by the event. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Walking through the plaza on Saturday, many may be surprised to see that the fight Muller and DiCicco are spearheading is one filled with laughter, camaraderie and excitement.

“It’s an event filled with live music by student bands, cotton candy,  free food, outdoor and indoor games. The event is meant to celebrate those who have survived cancer, remember those who have lost their battle with cancer and fight back against cancer. It’s an event for everyone and anyone,” Muller said.

With a large portion of last year’s total collected during the event through on-site fundraising (such as a kissing booth and bake sales) and last minute registration, the co-chairs urge everyone to stop by, even if it’s for an hour or so.