Relay for Life united the University and Lewisburg community in the fight against cancer on March 22. The event raised over $19,000 for the American Cancer Society. After months of preparation by two chairs, two co-chairs, and nine committees, the Olympic-themed event finally came to fruition.
Students filled the Gerhard Fieldhouse promptly at 6 p.m. There was an immense amount of support from various sports teams and Greek life organizations, as well as other student groups. Tables for each participating team lined the track. There were games such as volleyball, cornhole, Spikeball, Just Dance, and an inflatable obstacle course. Survivors from the community had a designated area within the track, which placed them at the heart of the event.
The event commenced with a Celebrate, Remember, Fight Back Ceremony presented by event chairs Kate Elken ’19 and Matt Novak ’21. After the ceremony, the survivors led all participants in an opening lap around the track.
There were many individual performances throughout the night by students including Marie-Claire Evans ’19, Delia Hughes ’21, Peter Bradbeer ’20, Holden Miller ’20, Emma Yost ’20, Julia Shapiro ’19, and Grevelin Ulerio ’19. Student groups such as Beyond Unison, the Bison Girls, the Silhouettes, the Bisonettes, the Offbeats, and Two Past Midnight also entertained participants.
“I thought the event went incredibly well! It was amazing to see around 500 students in attendance. All the survivors and adults there were thrilled with how the event went. It’s always nice to see the Bucknell community come together for a great cause,” Novak said.
The event also included one of its most notable features: the Luminaria Ceremony. “The biggest highlight was the Luminaria Ceremony, which is something I look forward to and cherish year to year,” Elken said.
Event leadership lined the track with luminaria bags that participants had decorated in honor of survivors and in memory of loved ones who lost their battles with cancer. Participants then gathered around the stage in the middle of the track. When the lights were turned off, the luminaria bags shone brightly in the fieldhouse.
Caregiver and Global Education Advisor Marguerite Santorine shared her family’s story with cancer. Her 2-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, was diagnosed with cancer and unfortunately lost her battle. However, Santorine expressed how Elizabeth brought many cherished memories and an endless amount of hope to her family while also inspiring others to make the most out of their lives. “We keep moving our X’s and O’s around the whiteboard of cancer, and of life,” Santorine said.
Following Santorine’s speech, participants each cracked glow sticks and silently walked a lap around the track in memory of family and friends who have passed away. Gradually, the music and lights returned, as did the celebratory aspect of the night.
Participants continued to walk the track, play games, eat, and dance until the event’s end at 12 a.m. “I was really happy with the event and impressed by the turnout from students, faculty, and staff! Throughout the whole event, there seemed to be an evident amount of joy, energy, and hope,” Elken said.