A red, white and blue garland was draped over the entryway to the SAC’s old gym space. Crossing the threshold, the gym laid sprawled out ahead. Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” blasted through the speakers while an Uncle Sam cutout pointed coercively. A man, donned with a heroic blue and yellow cape, posed next to a table at the end of the gym. Students on giant tricycles whistled past, almost flipping over while attacking the corner. Relay for Life had started, and there were 12 hours left to meet the fundraising goal.
Relay for Life is a philanthropy event, fundraising for the American Cancer Society. Aiming to generate $30,000 in donations, it continued from 6 p.m. Nov. 13 to 6 a.m. Nov. 14. Participants walked the prescribed path in the gym, occasionally switching between teammates or visiting donation stations. Within 30 minutes, more than 100 students and volunteers buzzed around the gym. For some, the donation tables are their only destination.
Thirty-four donation groups lined the length of the path, sporting various means of fundraising. Candy, sodas, baked goods and more lined the wall, prefaced by a miniature duck pond that pointed towards a blinking snow cone machine. Behind the machine stood other fundraising tables, sporting activities and raffles to win prizes. Corn-hole boards awaited competitors while a fundraiser on a giant tricycle wove in between.
Some fundraisers supported both the cause and being healthy. Christi Smith is a senior raising donations at the event. Smith said she, like many students, finds it hard to be active.
“I’m taking 19 credit hours and constantly am sitting at the computer being sedentary,” she said.
Her table offered a solution: blending smoothies via pedaling a bike. All donations from groups like Smith’s are forwarded to ACS. Aware of their mission, a white flag lying sprawled between donations tables spelled “HOPE” in purple bolded letters.
Alice Darling, the coordinator of the event on campus, talked about the goal of Relay for Life.
“We celebrate those who have beat cancer, remember those who have lost their lives to it and fight back against the disease by raising money,” Darling said.
The money doesn’t stop at cancer research. Darling says the money also goes towards educational and support programs for cancer patients and their families. “(People) may be surprised at how fun and meaningful the experience is.”
For both regulars and first timers, that statement seems to hold true. Kelsey Kennedy is a senior who serves on the event’s executive council. This is her second year on the board, but Kennedy has participated in the relay since her freshman year. For her, the event holds a significant meaning.
“I’ve lost a lot of my great-grandparents to cancer,” Kennedy said. “Also, my best friend’s mom has recently died (from cancer), so it’s near and dear to my heart.”
The proximity of the cause affects many, like Callie Shadrick who is a freshman helping fundraise at a table. Leaning over a tower of white shirts, Shadrick explained the importance of the event.
“My grandfather was recently diagnosed with cancer,” she said. Shadrick continued, saying she joined to make an impact—to band with people, like her, whose family members were affected by cancer.
Not all students have immediate family affected by cancer. Regardless of being one of those students, Jake True planned to stay until the event ended at 6 a.m.
“You gotta do what you gotta do,” True said. “Community service and philanthropy are important.”
Before the event began, Kennedy checked the status of donations and reported around $27,000 raised. That money, and what is raised overnight, goes to the American Cancer Society. Donations support families like Kennedy and Shadrick, who have felt cancer’s influence in their lives and others walking the Relay for Life.