Relay for Life raises more than $30,000 to fight cancer
By Sarah Kirkpatrick, Staff Writer
Cancer impacts everyone. This was the message that participants in Gettysburg’s Relay for Life shared as they walked in search of a cure to this life-altering and even fatal disease. From 7 pm on March 24 to 2 am the next morning, students united in the fieldhouse to raise money, support cancer survivors and their families, and have fun. The event, coordinated by members of Colleges Against Cancer and in the works since fall of 2016, included powerful speeches from survivors, a variety of food from Antica Napoli and Mr. G’s, and involvement from numerous campus organizations.
Gettysburg’s Relay combined service with entertainment, keeping participants engaged for the entire evening with performances from campus a capella groups and a variety of club-sponsored booths. These booths sold everything from colorful pancakes to friendship bracelets to raise money for the cause. Students could stop at several photo booths, play spike ball, decorate baked goods, and enter raffles. The only rule was that at least one participant from each club represented at the event always needed to be doing laps around the gym, which was decked out in purple as part of Paint the Campus Purple cancer awareness week.
Proceeds from the event went to the American Cancer Society to promote research, prevention, work with lawmakers, and increased access to care. Gettysburg students and cancer survivors Marcus Josie, Melissa Menna, and Travis Sowell regaled students with their stories about fighting and defeating the disease. They gave relay participants a picture of the challenges associated with having cancer, specifically as a child or young adult, and a message of hope about the future of this disease and the possibility of a cure. Along with other survivors and caregivers for those with cancer, these students did their own lap around the gym while the campus community cheered in support.
The Luminaria ceremony also reminded participants of their personal ties to cancer by giving students a chance to light a glow stick to honor or memorialize family members and friends who battled with cancer. As a part of this ceremony, they walked a silent lap around the track, providing them with a chance to reflect on their personal experience with the disease.
“My main motivation to become involved in the program came from my mom,” explained Relay Chair Brandi Lauer, a senior biology major. “When I was in high school, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was a really tough time on my family, but with the help of family and friends, we got through it. She is now 6 years cancer-free!”
Lauer headed the event to give families like hers the resources and support to fight the disease, which she hopes will lead to more survivor success stories in the future.
However, Relay for Life was also meaningful to those with loved ones who lost their battles with cancer. “My grandfather died of kidney cancer last year and I wanted to walk to give him some justice,” said first year Jackson Guyton, “I wanted to do something in his memory.”
Regardless of their motivations for walking, participants expressed overwhelmingly positive reactions to the event. Although it shared the same goals as previous relays, this year’s event included a few changes to increase participation.
“This year we wanted to keep Relay packed full of activities, speakers, food, and more,” Lauer explained. “In previous years, Relay has been until 6 am. Instead of doing the same, we moved up the start time and ended Relay at 2 am this year. We thought that the time switch would work better as more people would be likely to stay and participate.”
In addition, the student-led Relay for Life Board put more time into planning the event’s schedule and asked three cancer survivors, instead of just one, to share their stories about the illness. To date, the event has raised more than $30,000, and donations are accepted through the end of the academic year.