By Bethany Lebel – Staff Writer
UMF’s Relay for Life recently raised thousands of dollars in the fight against cancer.
At the climax of the night walking laps stopped and all but a few of the lights in the Fitness and Recreation Center (FRC) had been turned off. Luminaria, memorial bags with yellow glow sticks inside them lined the track.
Twelve participants stood in front of the stage. Each of them held an un-lit glow stick. The participants resembled each month in a year. The rest of the crowd sat soundlessly in front of them patiently awaiting the emotional journey about to unfold.
Emcee of the University of Maine at Farmington’s (UMF) Relay for Life event, Meg Boynton, explained that each glow stick symbolized a birthday candle for each of the twelve months out of the year that “we” missed loved ones taken by cancer.
“We missed you in January, as the New Year started and snow covered the ground,” said Boynton, sympathetically. “We missed you in February. Many around us were celebrating Valentine’s Day with hearts, but ours were broken without you.”
She continued through each month until one full year was completed. Shortly after, participants stood up—some teary-eyed or with tears crawling down their cheeks—and found their way to the track to walk in memory of those they knew impacted by cancer. Then, the FRC went black, except for the illuminating yellow-lit memorial bags.
“Even though it’s sad, I think it’s a nice memorial for the people that have died, but also the people who are still fighting,” Boynton said calmly. “It lets them know that we’re still thinking about them. It was beautiful.”
Relay isn’t just about remembering. It’s also about celebrating and fighting back. The celebration was evident especially with this year’s birthday theme. Birthday decorations, from balloons to cakes, to signs, surrounded the FRC.
“We tried to think of birthday parties and what would be there,” said Aimee St. Germain, a member of the decorations portion of the Relay committee, “so we had a bounce house.” The bounce house was almost always in use throughout the night, which started at 9:30 p.m. on April 13 and ended at 6:00 a.m. on April 14.
Besides the bounce house, there were other activities to participate in and to watch. For the first couple hours of the night, Will Gattis sang. After that, WUMF took over to DJ for the event.
When the Luminaria hour was over, there were performances by Teacher’s Lounge Mafia (an improv comedy group), Clefnotes (a UMF a cappella group), and Bust-A-Move Beavers (a UMF dance group). In the early hours of the morning, participants danced with the leaders of Dance Intensity, which was very similar to Zumba.
There was also a Drag Walk fundraiser hosted by the Alpha Phi Omega (APO) co-ed fraternity at UMF, which Boynton described as “sassy.” People in the Walk were anyone who wanted to be in it from any team registered for the Relay event. They walked once around the track in opposite-sex costumes and collected money from the rest of the participants in little buckets.
According to Rebecca Tanous, a member of APO and Team Leadership, the Walk raised over $120 for both APO teams, Team Leadership and Team Friendship.
The 211 participants of this year’s UMF Relay for Life raised a little over $14,000, which goes to the American Cancer Society for research in hopes of ultimately finding a cure. Peace.Love.Chemo., Bushwhackin’ Birthday Bash Beavers, and Hakuna Matatas were the top three teams who fundraised the most for the event.
Pizza, water, coffee, plenty of birthday cakes and cookies, and food and drinks from the team tables surrounding the track kept participants walking and fueled for the all-nighter for cancer. All the prize, food, and beverage donations are credited to the Relay committee.
“Relay went really smoothly this year. The feedback we’ve gotten from people, it seemed like they really enjoyed it, and the committee was awesome,” said St. Germain. “They made it happen.”
Kayla Tuttle, a co-captain of Hakuna Matatas, participated in UMF’s Relay for Life event last year and spoke highly of this year’s.
“I liked this year’s better because they had more activities,” said Tuttle. “The whole thing was my favorite part because there was so much to do, and you get to hang out with all your friends.”
Boynton was new to the Relay experience this year, and the enthusiasm of the participants is what surprised her the most.
“It was an amazing event, and I encourage anyone to become a part of it because you’re not gonna find that kind of energy anywhere else,” said Boynton.