Relay for Life: Celebrate, remember,and fight back

Wheaton’s Relay for Life event was a massive success and raised $12,100 over the weekend of Fri. March 30.

This year’s Relay for Life event was a massive success and raised $12,100 over the weekend of Fri. March 30. Major individual contributors were Caitlin Hampton ’13, Mersina Angell ’14, and Associate Registrar Liz Ziroli. Major team contributions included Marathon Mommas, Committee, and Kristen’s Team.

Relay for Life is a worldwide, yearly event sponsored by the American Cancer Society. The event honors the memories of those who have lost the battle with cancer, and celebrates the achievements of cancer survivors and those who are still fighting the battle.

Individuals and teams were sponsored to take turns walking around the track for the evening. Some teams pitched tents, while others made makeshift shelters out of tables and blankets. Activities for participants included a talent contest, flipbook photos, music, food, and massages. Snacks were provided at midnight to give participants a boost for the remaining seven hours.  There were also multiple games and prizes provided by Trinity, Wheaton College, Pizza Time, and Norton House of Pizza.

The evening was punctuated by various group performances and demonstrations. The Dance Company, Paraiso Latino and The Swing Cats all gave free lessons to relay participants and supporters.  A capella groups Voices United to Jam (VUJ) and the Wheatones performed moving pieces prior to the ceremony.

The success of the night was credited to the generosity of those who attended. “No matter who you are, there’s a place for you at Relay. Each dollar you raise will help save lives,” said co-chair Kirstie Parkinson ’13.

Wheaton sports teams also showed up to support the event, including the Lyons Soccer teams, the Lyons Swimming and Diving teams, and others. Other groups that attended included Alternative Winter Break to New Orleans (NOLA). Member of the Swimming and Diving team Nina Lanctot ’14 said, “It was awesome to have our team get together, almost like one big family, to come and support such a great cause. It was a really fun event and we hope to do it again next year and make it a tradition!”

Relay for Life originated in May of 1985 and was created by Dr. Gordy Klatt, a colorectal surgeon who wanted a way to raise awareness as well as income for the American Cancer Society.  He spent 24 hours circling a stadium track while his friends donated money throughout the day.  The following year, the first team relay event took place and has continued ever since. “Because of Wheaton’s support, we are creating a world where cancer can’t claim another year of anyone’s life. You are helping create a world with less cancer and more birthdays!” said Parkinson ’13.

The regular laps around the field track in Haas Athletic Center were broken up by special laps. One of the most moving moments of the evening was the first lap: the survivor lap. For this lap, those attending who had survived cancer circled the track together, while others joined in after them.

One of the most important moments of the night was the Luminaria Ceremony. Chair of Ceremonies Alix Voyajopoulos spoke at the beginning of this ceremony, sharing a personal story about her grandmother’s struggle with cancer and why she was inspired to participate in Relay for Life.

Following the Luminaria Ceremony, each individual was asked to crack a glow stick in honor of someone they know who experienced cancer. Paper bags lined the track with names of loved ones who had lost, survived, or were continuing the battle with cancer. With all of the lights turned out, the only light that showed came from glow sticks placed within each bag.

“We all have different reasons for doing Relay, and the Luminaria helps us connect those reasons,” said Jennifer Gibson ’14.

This year’s event out-performed last year’s in both fundraising and participation. Over 50  people participated in the relay, including 12 cancer survivors.

Whatever the reason for being there, Relay for Life was an opportunity to join together to celebrate, remember, and fight back. The fight continues, as donations will be accepted through September in hopes of reaching the goal of raising $20,000.