Syracuse University Magazine

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An Enduring Journey of Friendship

By Elie Rabinowitz

When I was selected as a 2004-05 Remembrance Scholar—a scholarship set aside to honor the 35 Syracuse University victims of the 1988 Pan Am 103 terrorist attack—I was reminded that we all must cherish every moment we are given because we don’t know when our last will come. I also learned that being a part of the Syracuse University community meant having the responsibility of honoring and remembering those who have touched our lives.

In 2006, SU lost Chris Sawyer ’04, a member of our University family who made a lasting impact on my life. Chris and I got to know each other well while serving in our shared role as Otto the Orange. Chris was an amazing entertainer and a great friend. He knew people everywhere he went. Chris could really work a crowd, including a 30,000-plus strong one in the Dome, with his endless spirit, energy, and enthusiasm for all things Orange.  

When SU basketball games were nationally televised, Chris always had the best ideas for how to get Otto on camera. He would coordinate with the film crews and the band so that upon coming back from commercial break, they could lead with Otto playing the drums. Let me tell you, trying to fit behind the drum kit and play in full Otto costume was no easy task, but Chris pulled it off every time.

I’ll never forget Chris’s last home game versus UConn in 2004. We all knew the rules and what Otto was and was not supposed to do, but he wanted to pump up the crowd one last, unforgettable time. After coordinating plans with friends and fans, Otto went crowd-surfing through the student section—a feat that probably never should have happened. But Chris just had to do it, and the crowd went wild. Man, did he love making games memorable for everyone.

After Chris graduated, he went on to become a professional mascot in both hockey and baseball. In 2005, Chris, a healthy, strong young man, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Although I’m sure he fought as hard as one could, he lost his battle with the disease, passing away a year later at just 24 years old.    

Remembering what I learned about honoring those in my SU family, I signed up in 2008 to run the Phoenix Marathon as a part of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training (TNT). In exchange for raising money for patient care and blood cancer research, TNT coaches will train anybody to be prepared for an endurance event. I am proud to say that not only did I finish the race well that year, but in my first attempt at fundraising in honor of my friend, I raised more than $3,000.

I have since completed three additional events for TNT, and this June will compete in my first triathlon with them in Hyannis on Cape Cod. Since 2009, I have raised more than $12,000 in Chris’s name. This year I have set my goal high, hoping to raise $10,000 for this single event. Although I first started this journey for my friend Chris Sawyer, having told people about what I’m doing has introduced me to so many others whose lives have been touched by these terrible diseases, and I feel privileged to be a part of this new family of incredible people.  

A graduate of the College of Arts and Sciences, Elie Rabinowitz ’05 resides on Cape Cod with his wife, Newhouse alumna Becca Miller ’05, two dogs, and three chickens; teaches high-school Spanish; and coaches baseball. Along with serving as Otto the Orange and being a Remembrance Scholar, he was an orientation leader and helped found A Men’s Issue.

 


To learn more about Elie’s efforts in Chris Sawyer’s memory, visit pages.teamintraining.org/ma/HyannisT14/rabinowitz.