Relay for Life raises awareness and funds
The annual Relay for Life at Northern Arizona University kicked off on April 21 with attendance by more than 1,200 people and ultimately raising over $63,000. From 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. the following morning, the event dominated the Walkup Skydome and drew participants from throughout the state.
Relay for Life, as described by executive director Caitlyn Thede, is a 12-hour event sponsored by the American Cancer Society in order to draw awareness to the constant presence of cancer, research and the need for a cure.
“It’s an overnight event fundraiser for the American Cancer Society,” Thede said. “Basically, the idea is that cancer never sleeps so neither will we.”
According to Thede, this year’s monetary goal was $58,000. Not only did the event surpass this figure, but it also raised more than the past two years, both which accumulated more than $56,000. NAU relay teams also succeeded in raising more money than ASU and UA.
“We increased our fund raising amount by a lot, we increased our team number by a lot, we increased our participant number by a lot,” Thede said. “On participant satisfaction, we are still actually surveying people about it, but it sounded like everyone was pretty happy with it. We’ve been making some improvements from the past few years.”
The success of the event was reflected both in the amount fundraised and the reaction of participants. The committee surveys random attendees of the event and, according to Thede, the results have been positive.
“Everyone seemed very happy; everyone we talked with,” Thede said. “Every single team that was there. Nobody had a bad thing to say, so it seemed like it went pretty well.”
Mandy Montgomery, freshman secondary education mathematics major, volunteered with this years Relay for Life committee. Overall, Montgomery also felt that the experience was positive.
“This is actually the first Relay for Life I’ve ever attended,” Montgomery said. “They’ve definitely exceeded my expectations far more than I ever could have imagined.”
Many Relay participants have a very personal and emotional stake in the event. The Luminaria ceremony, which involved the lighting of candles and glow sticks in remembrance of those who have died of cancer in addition to supporting those whose struggle is ongoing, gave participants the opportunity to display how cancer has impacted their lives. Hundreds of participants circled around the track to show support for those affected including parents, siblings, extended family and friends.
Montgomery, who was involved with a Relay team in addition to holding a position on the committee, described her own personal connection to the issue of cancer awareness before the Luminaria began.
“I have had a few grandparents pass away because of cancer,” Montgomery said. “Right now my sister is alive because of the development that they (American Cancer Society) have had with cancer. I really don’t think that she would be here if it weren’t for things like this that were going on.”
Rachel Booth, sophomore international hospitality major and Sechrist Hall’s Relay team leader, described her personal connection to the event.
“Recently my grandmother, Karen Morrison, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer,” Booth said. “So I just want to help people who are just like her not only with health, but also with money too. I wasn’t doing it just for my grandma, I was also doing it for people like her.”
Booth went on to describe the emotion of the event, particularly the Survivor Walk, which celebrates those who have been successful in their struggle with cancer.
“The Survivor Walk was awesome to see because people have the courage to show that they went through a rough time and made it through,” Booth said.
Relay participants said they were very happy with the way the event turned out, including Montgomery, who “cannot wait to become more involved” in the next Relay “throughout the rest of her college experience.”
Booth enthusiastically voiced her satisfaction with the relay, as well.
“It was awesome to see diverse people coming together and raising money for one cause.” Booth said.The Relay participants are very happy with the way the event turned out, including Montgomery, who “can’t wait to be more involved” in the next Relay. Booth enthusiastically voiced her satisfaction with the relay, as well.
“It was awesome to see diverse people coming together and raising money for one cause.” Booth said.