By Erin Levasseur, Staff Writer
On a recent Friday evening, countless groups of students were seen enthusiastically shuffling into the Fitness and Recreation Center to participate in the annual Relay for Life celebration at UMF. Adorned with matching t-shirts and carrying sugary treats to stay awake, students came together until the wee hours of Saturday morning to raise money for those currently battling cancer.
This year’s Relay event raised an astounding $14,000 for the American Cancer Society. The total donation amount is expected to rise however, as students have the opportunity to continue donating to the UMF Relay for Life into the month of August.
Relay for Life club secretary Tiffany Bishop was impressed with the success of the event. “I believe we practically doubled the amount of money that we had raised prior to the event within the day and night of the event, which, in my opinion, is pretty impressive” she said with enthusiasm.
One of the more touching events of the evening was the luminary walk, a moment of silence in darkness where all participants walked around the track lined with dimly lit luminaries bearing the names of loved ones who have fought or are currently fighting cancer.
“Seeing someone stop and spend time with a bag decorated in honor of their loved one reminds us of the special bond that they had with that person, as well as the special bonds that we’ve had with our loved ones,” Bishop said. “I’ve seen someone reach out and touch the bag, almost as if they were grasping for their loved one’s hand, and watching, to me, it seemed almost as if for that moment their loved one was there with them again.”
Although the event was scheduled to end at six in the morning, the Relay committee decided to start packing up at 4:00 a.m. due to low attendance at that time. Typically Relay is very strict about keeping participants the entire duration of the event, but Tori Lands, co-chair of the event, was not disappointed with the early clean up. “As long as people come and show support I’m happy,” she said. “It’s hard to keep people so late, especially busy college students.”
Junior Chelsey Oliver participated in Relay, but was one of the students who had to end the night early, in preparation of an early morning admissions event the following day.
“I did make the decision to leave Relay, around 1:30 a.m., to make sure I got a reasonable amount of sleep for the Spring into UMF event, but Relay and Admissions are both reasons why I love UMF and I’m so glad I got to go from one right to the other,” Oliver said with pride. “It is always fun to talk to families visiting about the event and see what Relay means to them. Many of the students have never heard of Relay before, so they leave campus with something to look forward to if they do come back as a Beaver in the fall.”
Though an early conclusion of the event occurred, it was clear that the message was not overlooked. “I relay to support those who have been affected by cancer in any way, shape, or form,” Oliver said. “Cancer has affected everybody in a different way and Relay is an opportunity to come together and support each other for any and all of those reasons.”