Students touched by cancer decorate paper bags with meaningful messages on Friday, March 29, 2019, at Relay for Life in Grace Hall. These bags line the track as students walk to show their support and fight back against the disease. (Annabelle Sharenow/B&W Staff)

Lehigh’s Relay for Life reaches one millionth dollar mark

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Lehigh’s Relay for Life event reached its one-millionth dollar Friday night.

The annual 12-hour event seeks to bring the student body together and raise money for the American Cancer Society. After 14 years, the event has brought in over $1 million total, making Friday’s night even more special than past years.

The monetary goal for the night was $100,000, which was reached before the event even began and was surpassed for a grand total of over $110,000 earned, including what was raised up to and during the event. 

Alpha Omicron Pi sorority raised the most money — a total of $18,364. The Colleges Against Cancer executive board team came in second with $18,018 at the time the article was published.

Apart from raising money, Sarah Gardner, ’20, and Emily Hall, ’19, Colleges Against Cancer club co-presidents,   said they hope Relay for Life will leave participants feeling like they have a community of support.

“I think looking around and seeing the faces of all the other people who are going through similar experiences is important,” Hall said. “We have a lot of students who have had cancer who are here tonight, so it is a great support system for them and also for people who have lost loved ones or who have loved ones battling cancer right now. It is comforting for them to be around people who have the same story as them.”

Hall said people could fundraise through the American Cancer Society website or on its app. She reached out to people through Facebook, email and text messages. Over the years, she said fundraising and awareness have become more dependent on social media as a platform of outreach.

Gardner said that fundraising becomes a competition, with everyone trying to be in first place.

“I hope participants take away a sense of modesty and that cancer doesn’t have to be something that you fear, there are a lot of people who survive it,” Gardner said. “We are getting closer to a cure every day. Knowing that there is a community, even if they aren’t affected by it personally, knowing that they can contribute positively to the community and to the people that are going through it.”

The event promptly kicked off in Grace Hall at 3 p.m. Friday and ran until 3 a.m. Saturday morning. Different groups, though mostly Greek organizations, had booths spread out around the room. Each booth had different games and activities set up for event participants.

There are multiple stages leading up to and during Relay for Life. Teams do pre-event fundraising before setting up their booths and preparing for kick-off. The actual event starts with an opening ceremony, welcoming participants and exciting them for what is to come. Next, survivors and caretakers do laps around the room. For the next 12 hours, participants play games, dance, observe performances and take laps. In the end, a closing ceremony marks the end of the night.

Hall said the night is about raising money so that the American Cancer Society can provide treatments. She said it is also about celebrating the lives of loved ones who have gone through cancer.

Rachel Beltran, ’19, executive board member of Colleges Against Cancer, said she hopes that the night is another step toward finding a cure.

“My goal is to never have (anyone) hear the words ‘you have cancer’ again,” Beltran said.

For Garder and Hall, Relay for Life is something personal.

“My grandma is a survivor, my grandfather is currently battling it, and my aunt passed away,” Gardner said. “So for me, it’s about doing what I can to give back to them. For me, it’s a personal connection.” 

The duo said it takes an entire year to plan the Relay for Life event. They start planning right after the previous relay, with the executive board meeting over the summer to talk about the event.

They put it all together during the first semester, but it’s a full year of fundraising and reaching out to local businesses.

“Both my aunt and my nana had cancer and survived so I relay for them and also for my friends and their families and loved ones,” Hall said. “I just love the feeling, this is my fourth year doing this, I just love the support and the energy that tonight is all about.”

Gardner said once they finish, they will immediately start planning the next relay.

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