Editorial: One in four will die from cancer, but we still can’t show up for Relay

If it doesn’t affect you now, it certainly will at some point in your life: cancer will destroy you, or the people you love, or the life that you live, or any combination thereof. If current research holds, the American Cancer Society (ACS) predicts that one in four deaths in the United States is from cancer. Picture your three best friends, or your three closest family members, and then imagine that one of you dies from cancer at some point in the next year.

Forgive the callous hypothetical, but if everyone on campus considered that when deciding whether to attend or participate in this year’s Relay for Life, it isn’t a far jump to assume that numbers would’ve been higher.

Relay for Life took place March 31 in the Gerhard Fieldhouse from 6 p.m. until 2 a.m. Despite strong numbers early on in the evening and a crowded track full of students, faculty, and staff, support dwindled as the hours ticked on. By the end of the event, under a hundred attendees remained.

Consider a few things here: this was an eight-hour commitment where all the money raised goes to cancer research and toward finding a cure; less than a hundred people out of our 3,800-student school were in attendance in the last two hours of the event; seven downtown houses were registered for the evening of March 31 despite months of advance notice that Relay was taking place that day, the timing of the event was changed this year, and most people who partake in alcohol-related social activities are usually out until 2 a.m. anyway.

Yes, it is incredible that over $40,000 were raised for cancer research, and yes, it is impressive that so many people made the effort to show up on a night where the end of the academic week meets the beginning of the social weekend. But is it unreasonable to expect that numbers should’ve been higher toward the latter half of the event? At a school where the downtown bars are packed Wednesday-Saturday, and the streets of St. Catherine and St. George are teeming with students every Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday nights, it seems like it shouldn’t be that difficult to garner better attendance at an event dedicated to the eradication of and fight against cancer.

The commitment of eight hours walking around a track or partaking in activities including mini golf, volleyball, and the consumption of free food pales in comparison to the months, years, and lifetimes that millions of people spend fighting grueling battles with cancer. The glowstick and luminaria ceremonies should’ve proven that every person has been touched by cancer in some way—it doesn’t seem like too much to ask that one night is dedicated to raising money and supporting a wholly worthwhile cause. Or if you chose not to participate for the Relay event itself or the ACS, consider reevaluating that decision for your fellow community members who worked so diligently to sponsor this event and who care so deeply about finding a cure for the illness that ravages families and friends.

There are certainly valid reasons for not being able to attend—illness, travel, sporting events, academic commitments, family commitments, etc.—but there should be some happy medium between outright not supporting the cause and being one of the few who attended the full eight hours of the event. Perhaps next year, short of an overall uptick in attendance as a whole, a better distribution of people could be arranged so that support is consistently shown throughout the entire night. That doesn’t seem like too much to ask of this university.

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