By Hannah Forbush, Staff Writer

Relay for Life Committee Co-chair Ashley Godbout. (photo by Christina Hallowell)

Relay for Life Committee Co-chair Ashley Godbout. (photo by Christina Hallowell)

Cancer is a disease that manages to touch the lives of everyone; even if you have not been affected personally, it is likely that you know someone who has been. Recently, the kick off event for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life was hosted by the University of Maine at Farmington (UMF), in the Olsen Student Center. Relay committee members gave information to excited participants to get them started on forming their own teams to participate in this charity event.

The Relay For Life is an event hosted across the country by the American Cancer Society to raise money for cancer research. During this 12-hour event, participants form teams to fundraise and walk all night to show support for cancer survivors. The event usually raises approximately $20,000. Senior Ashley Godbout, a co-chair of the campus Relay, explained “The event raises thousands of dollars for the American Cancer Society, which is a non-profit that does so much,” she said. “The money goes to anywhere from funding research to finding a cure for cancer to providing rides for cancer patients to get to their treatments.” Each team is encouraged to raise close to $1,000 for research and most do some sort of fundraiser at the event as well.

Greeting people at the door was committee member Tiffany Bishop, a 5 year veteran of the Relay for Life. The smile on her face and the brightness of her eyes made her passion for the cause evident. Bishop stepped up to the front of the room and explained Relay to the hushed crowd. “There are three main principals,” she said, her face taking on a more serious expression. “Celebrate, remember, and fight back. Celebrate—that’s for the survivors.”

Despite the sad context, there’s no doubt that the Relay really is a celebration. Attendees took turns explaining their reasons for participating in the Relay, relating to each other’s struggles and losses. It was easy to see that attendees were very proud of the people in their lives who had survived the often-fatal disease. Cancer survivors are the stars of the Relay for Life, and the special lap they do at the beginning is a favorite part of the event for many committee members. “The survivor walk is really touching, especially with the caregivers present.” Mac Watts, an American Cancer Society representative and UMF graduate, said. The affection showed in his eyes as he explained, “It’s a celebration of [the survivor’s] victory over cancer.”

While the Relay is a celebration, it is also a time to remember those who have lost their battle with cancer. Committee Member Danielle Fossett explained that the luminaria are small memorials participants and donors can purchase and decorate for loved ones they have lost to cancer, or who even those who have survived the disease. She said “It’s really just way to show support and care for survivors.” The presentation included an explanation of the luminaria portion of the event, where participants walk in silence for those who have lost the battle with cancer. “I especially love [the luminaria] here,” Bishop said. “Last year was the first time I’ve seen people actually sitting in front of their luminaria. I love seeing people have that connection with their loved one.”

Another significant part of the Relay is the sense of community it brings. Godbout said her favorite part of the Relay for Life is “seeing everyone come together, especially college students… I love seeing them take a night of their time to do this, as well as the time it takes to fundraise.” This year’s Relay will take place on April 17th, so it isn’t too late for interested members of the UMF community to sign up. For more information, visit the Relay for Life website at www.relayforlife.org/umainefarmigton, or email umfrelayforlife@gmail.com.