Most people are familiar with Relay for Life, a national organization that raises funding and awareness for cancer research. However, many don’t see all the planning, organization and hard work happening throughout the year. This week, we got to learn about these behind-the-scenes responsibilities when we talked to Emily Vogelgesang and Kasandra Watson, the Event Chairs for Auburn University’s Relay chapter.
Major: Biosystems Engineering
What made you interested in Relay for Life? How long have you been involved?
Emily: I became involved with Relay for Life in sixth grade when a friend invited me to attend the event with her. I stayed involved because of the people in my life who have been affected by cancer and inspire me to continue this fight. I have been involved with Relay for Life at Auburn all four years and the family I have found in this organization has been a light in my life.
Kasandra: I have been involved in Relay for Life for about 10 years. I originally did it because a group of friends asked me to join their team, but after losing my father and grandfather to cancer it became a very large part of my life.
Do your majors/hobbies have anything to do with your decision to join Relay?
Kasandra: It’s actually the opposite. Relay for Life and fighting cancer have a lot to do with my decision of pharmacy and some of my hobbies. I’d really like to work as a pharmacist somewhere like MD Anderson Cancer Center, and even if I end up working somewhere like CVS, as a pharmacist I will still have a lot of opportunities to get involved with cancer-related activities. I’m also a big runner and I’ve done many races that benefit different charitable organizations. For example, the Disney Princess Half Marathon I completed last year benefited The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital and Noah’s Light Foundation.
Emily: My decision to partake in Relay doesn’t have to do with my major but I generally like planning things, so it has fit my personality really well.
As an Event Chair, what are your major duties?
Kasandra: From planning committee meetings and work days, to working closely with our exec board and the University to make the event the best it can be, the list of duties go on and on.
Emily: We are responsible for overseeing the planning committee (about 60 people) that helps execute cancer education events throughout the year, fundraises for the American Cancer Society and puts on the actual Relay for Life event on April 5. We come up with a lot of big ideas and have a wonderful executive board that helps make them a reality. We are mainly the figure heads and wouldn’t get any of the amazing things this organization accomplishes without our committee.
What’s your favorite part of being an Event Chair and participating in Relay?
Emily: My favorite part about being Event Chair has been seeing people from all parts of Auburn come together to put together our event. My favorite part about the day of Relay is always seeing the Auburn family come together to celebrate survivors, remember loved ones lost and pledge to continue fighting back.
Kasandra: My favorite part is the opportunities I’ve had to meet other people who are just as passionate about Relay for Life as I am, along with being able to see the difference Relay for Life and the American Cancer Society makes in so many lives.
What’s an interesting fact people may not know about Relay at Auburn University?
Kasandra: Relay for Life is a six-hour event usually held from 6p.m. to 6a.m., but this year, the Auburn University [chapter] will be holding it on the Green Space from noon to midnight. We’re really excited about the change and think it will be very beneficial to our event.
Emily: Relay at Auburn has been active for almost 12 years. Last year we raised over $64,000, which directly benefits people in our state through Hope Lodge in Birmingham, drug research at most of the universities and numerous other patient services.
Are you planning on continuing participating in Relay after this year?
Emily: I will continue participating in Relay once I get settled in whatever city I end up in after graduation.
Kasandra: Definitely! I plan on continuing with Auburn’s Relay until I graduate and then participating in a community Relay wherever I live after graduation.