Photo: File photo
The Drake community will gather this weekend for 12 straight hours at Relay for Life to celebrate those who have battled cancer, remember those who have died from the disease and to fight back by walking to raise money for cancer research.
Relay for Life, which is in its sixth year at Drake, is a walk consisting of teams that raise money by collecting donations. Proceeds from the event go directly to the American Cancer Society. While the substantial goal may be raising money, the overall reason for the event is to raise awareness and to share in an experience of fighting back against cancer.
“Relay for Life is an event for people to share in how cancer has effected their lives and to create a sense of community with other people who have shared in their sense of pain or suffering because of cancer,” said Erin Hogan, co-president of Colleges Against Cancer.
Colleges Against Cancer, in partnership with the American Cancer Society, has gone through great efforts over the last year to ensure the success of this year’s Relay for Life. The on-campus organization is broken up into various committees, which each organize a different aspect of Relay for Life to make the event run as smoothly as possible.
Sophomore Ashley Beisch is the head of the entertainment committee for this weekend’s event. Beisch lost her brother to leukemia and therefore has a special connection to Relay for Life.
“Ever since he was diagnosed, I’ve been involved in Relay for Life with him as a survivor and now without him as a lost loved one,” Beisch said. “Since then, I’ve always known Relay was my way of giving back and to honor him and the difficult struggle he went through.”
Cancer has affected the majority of people in one way or another, which is the primary reason behind Relay for Life’s growing success. Last year, Drake’s Relay for Life brought in around 350 participants and somewhere between $24-25,000. This year’s Relay has improved significantly with a count of 478 participants and around $24,500 at the start of the week. Over the week leading up to Relay for Life, the number of participants and donations has been expected to increase due to last minute additions from the 48 teams participating.
“I think we’re really ahead of the game for fundraising, team recruitment and participation,” Hogan said. “Some years we haven’t met our goal and a lot of years we get really close, so we’re in pretty good shape this year.”
Other than simply walking at Relay for Life, which will be taking place in the Knapp Center rather than the Field House as in previous years, there are several other events that take place throughout the evening. The beginning of the night will kick off with an introduction of all the teams who will walk their initial laps. As the night proceeds, teams will continue walking but will also be able to enjoy several entertainment opportunities such as Henna body art provided by dRAAStic, massages provided by massage therapist Barry Lowe, a special performance from Drake’s dance team, a concert by the local band The Throwback and a juggling performance from SAB’s Ivan Pecel.
One of the most important components of the night is the luminaria ceremony. Small bags called luminarias will be displayed throughout the gym. These bags will be decorated or written on to honor or remember loved ones who have overcome, died from or are battling through cancer. The luminaria ceremony is a time when those people are recognized. A slideshow will be shown consisting of names and pictures of loved ones that are being honored and remembered. Luminarias are being sold for $1 to have the person’s name in the show and $5 to have their name and picture.
“The luminaria ceremony is such an emotional experience for everyone,” Hogan said. “We want it to be seamless.”
The result of all of the planning, hard work and donations collected for this event will be seen this Friday night starting at 6 p.m. and ending at 6 a.m. on Saturday. The hundreds of students, faculty, staff and Drake community members participating will all be able to gather together for a cause that affects so many people.
“Every Relay for Life I am reminded that I am human and my life could be changed or taken away at any moment. Cancer knows no race, age or gender, and, therefore, it brings people together to fight a common cause,” Beisch said. “It gives me that burst to be happy that I’m alive and healthy to help the people who are struggling with getting their life back due to cancer.”