By Maggie Cunningham–
Every year, more than 40 million people all over the world participate in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. On Friday, April 13, 55 fundraising teams of students at the University of Louisville gathered at the Lutz Hall lawn, rallying and relaying through the night raising more than $34,000 for cancer research.
A relay event has been held on U of L’s campus for many years. In preparation for the relay, participants form teams, and raise donations to meet a goal set by each team’s self-appointed leader. “Donations can be gained by sending out email templates asking people to donate money on your behalf, and you can also spread the word personally, there’s many different ways to collect donations,” said Ricardo Ullrich, a sophomore political science major who is part of the event organization.
Samantha Maloney, a political science junior, participated in her second Relay for Life this year at the U of L. “This is a great cause, and a really good promotion. A lot of people are affected by cancer and the university supporting it and bringing it on campus shows that they care,” Maloney said.
“One member of each team always has to be on the track at all times, walking all through the night for 12 hours,” said Maloney. Each team sets up a booth or tent with an activity for the relaying participants to do during their laps. While at least one team member is relaying around the track to each of the booths, the rest of the team stays and works the booth activities. Team members can tag each other in and out, relaying throughout the night.
At the kickoff of the relay, several local cancer survivors were recognized on the main stage. Kinsey Morrison, a 16 year old junior at St. Francis High School and an 11 year survivor of a rare blood cancer, testified about what the Relay for Life means to her. Morrison said, “This past week all of us found out the U of L has the best basketball team in the country, but it looks to me like we have one of the best relay teams in the country too.”
“Whether it is the basketball team or a relay team, there are three types of people in the world. There are people who make things happen, people who watch things happen, and people that say, ‘what happened?’ It seems like all of the U of L teams are people who make things happen.” Morrison said.
“I was just one scared patient. Multiply that times 25,160. That is the number of Kentuckians that are diagnosed with cancer every single year. That is one every 21 minutes. One person every 21 minutes that will hear the words that will change their life forever. One person every 21 minutes who like me, 11 years ago, is afraid they won’t make it until their next birthday. One person every 21 minutes who doesn’t have any idea what they should do next. One person every 21 minutes who needs the American Cancer Society, and one person every 21 minutes who needs all of you,” Morrison continued.
Following her testimony, Morrison, alongside seven other survivors were awarded medals by NCAA men’s basketball champions Luke Hancock, Tim Henderson and Stephan Van Treese. The champions and the survivors along with their support systems and caretakers led the first lap to get the evening started.
Laps throughout the night were dedicated to different people, groups or things. One of which is the luminary ceremony. People who lost their battles against cancer are remembered, and those who are fighting or have fought are also honored at this time.
“This is a predominately Greek-oriented event, but we are trying to expand the scope,” said Ullrich. This year, along with many different greek organizations, teams such as Beka’s Toppers, and Third Base Perks participated in the fundraising event.
The students who organize the Relay for Life on campus are also in the process of applying to become an Recognized Student Organization. Ullrich said, “Right now, we’re only an executive board; we’re a group of ten or so students who have come together to organize this whole event for everybody.” As an RSO, the group is hoping to be able to become more involved in cancer prevention on campus. Ullrich continued, “We want to do the best we can to prevent anybody from having to experience the toll that cancer can have on you.”
Photos by Maggie Cunningham/The Louisville Cardinal