Photo: Connor McCourtney
“In honor of my mom.”
“Christopher. Seven-year-old boy diagnosed with brain cancer a month ago.”
“Celebrate. Remember. Fight back.”
Luminaries lined the track around Drake University’s Knapp Center Friday night to honor and remember those affected by cancer.
Drake’s sixth annual Relay for Life was put on by Colleges Against Cancer to raise money for the American Cancer Society. Over 600 people participated on 54 teams, walking around the Knapp Center track from 6 p.m. on Friday to 6 a.m. on Saturday.
Samantha Haas, co-president of Drake’s chapter of Colleges Against Cancer, said these numbers were way up. She said that last year brought 350 participants, which was very exciting. The 600 participants this year surprised everyone involved.
Not only was the number of participants up, but also the money contributed to the cause raised significantly. This year’s goal was $30,000, but Haas estimates that the total gathered was somewhere in the vicinity of $34,000. Co-President Erin Hogan said during the closing ceremony that this was the first time the goal had actually been met. Both were particularly excited about this since they technically have until August to meet their goal.
Haas ended the opening ceremony by quoting fellow student Megan Reiss’ Facebook status, which had been posted prior to the event:
“Twelve hours. It can stretch out forever when you’re waiting to hear the report on a biopsy. It can literally evaporate when it’s the last hours spent with a dying loved one. Or, it can bring hundreds of people together in the fight against cancer through Relay for Life 2011.”
Participants had various reasons for participating in Relay.
“It’s a fun way to support a great cause,” said sophomore Ryan Price from the Sigma Phi Epsilon team.
Fellow team member Nick Dodd said, “There’s nothing better to do on a Friday night than walk for cancer.”
However, SigEp participant Shiv Morjaria had a more personal reason to walk. His grandmother is a breast cancer survivor, and Morjaria was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma last semester. He just completed his treatment.
“I’m really passionate about cancer,” he said. While many teams traded off walkers over the course of the night, Morjaria said he intended to stay for the entire 12 hours.
Haas also had a personal tie to cancer. She lost two grandparents to cancer.
But the night was about celebrating as much as it was about remembering. Students celebrated survivors and their strength, and a progress toward a cure.
Entertainment was available over the course of the night, including Ivan Pecel, a juggler from the popular TV show “America’s Got Talent.” Drake’s a cappella groups Brocal Chords and the Treblemakers also performed. Brocal Chords member Nick Budden wasn’t on Relay for Life teams but said he was proud to donate his time and talent.
There were also prizes, free foot massages and food available from many sponsors. A limbo competition was held at about 4 a.m., and Haas was crowned champion for the fourth year in a row. She was the first four-year limbo champion in Drake Relay for Life history.
“It’s awesome,” she said with a laugh.
Relay for Life represents a lot of hard work, dedication and passion from the Drake community. The cause is far-reaching–helping over 11 million people living with cancer and their families, according the American Cancer Society website.
“Everyone is somehow impacted by cancer in their lives,” Haas said.