Relay For Life rallies University community

Emily Haas, Contributing Writer


The University has participated in Relay For Life every year since the event was brought to campus in 2006. Each year, students, faculty, and staff members come together to remember loved ones lost, and honor those who have survived their battles with cancer.


This year’s 7-hour event began with the Opening Ceremony at 6:00 p.m. Several people shared their stories throughout the night, including Dean of Students Amy Badal, who spoke at the Survivorship Ceremony. Badal’s story was followed by survivors and their caretakers participating in the “Survivor Lap,” where they made a lap around the track with attendees cheering them on.


“It’s an emotional opportunity for the community to come together and support those that are surviving,” Co-Chair Kathryn Lenker ’20 said.


The highlight of the evening was the Luminaria Ceremony. Throughout the ceremony, the track was lined with luminaries and everyone received a glow stick. Participants were encouraged to write the names of friends or family members who are battling cancer or have in the past. “That’s really an opportunity for people to share their own stories with one another,” Lenker said.


Participants then made an emotional silent lap around the track. One of the co-chairs for the event, Leah Chrisbacher ’20, shared her story of her mother’s battle against brain cancer during the Luminaria Ceremony.


Throughout the evening, various student performers entertained the relayers and food was donated from local eateries for participants to enjoy throughout the night.


Time and effort was put into planning the event to ensure that the event ran smoothly. Co-chairs, Chrisbacher and Lenker, began planning Relay in August and worked with a committee of around 60 students who all applied at the beginning of the year.


The moving event brought in a total of 488 participants this year. Some of the organizations on campus that participated were: The Bison Girls, Chi Omega, Kappa Alpha Theta, Alpha Chi Omega, Kappa Kappa Gamma, Women’s Club Soccer, Sigma Phi Epsilon, Alpha Delta Pi, Alpha Phi Omega, Bucknell Swim & Dive, Tau Kappa Epsilon, Phi Gamma Delta, Alpha Xi Delta, Delta Zeta, Delta Gamma, Lambda Chi Alpha, Chi Phi, Orientation Leaders, and Panhel/IFC.


Unfortunately, this year’s organizers failed to reach their goal. “This year we raised $33,652.18 – just a little over $6,000 short of our $40,000 goal,” Fundraising Chair Jackie St. John ’18 said.


“Within the past eight years, there has been a lot less fundraising in general. In 2010, they raised over $100,00 and this year we barely raised over $35,000. I think it just has to do with the changing student population, and that the diversity of interests on this campus is not necessarily focused on the American Cancer Society and Relay for Life,” Lenker said.

The money raised through Relay goes to the American Cancer Society, the nationwide, community-based, volunteer health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer through research, education, advocacy, and service. According to the ACS website, in 2015, 75 percent of the organization’s resources went to cancer research, patient support, prevention information and education, and detection and treatment. The remaining 25 percent of resources were spent on management, general expenses, and fundraising expenses.


Although the University’s Relay for Life event has seen a decline in fundraising over the past few years, both co-chairs expressed hope for the future of the event.


“In the future, the hope is that we raise more money next year. Unfortunately, it has just been on a decline over the past ten years. We also hope to increase our outreach to more than just Greek Organizations. We have a lot of trouble getting first-years to go because they are not necessarily part of an organization that is involved in Relay,” Lenker said.


The number of people who have been affected by cancer, either personally or through friends and family, is chilling. According to a recent CBS News Poll, 54 percent of Americans say they or someone else in their immediate family has been diagnosed with cancer at some point within their lives.


Over half of all Americans have been touched by cancer, and the University’s student body, faculty, and staff are no exception. If you or someone you care about has been affected by cancer, please consider supporting and participating in Relay next year.


“For me, it’s a way to get involved in something greater and it’s my way of playing a role in helping those individuals who need it. I find purpose in working with the organization and in raising awareness for such a beautiful cause,” St. John said. If you are looking for something meaningful to participate in, keep Relay in mind.

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