Students, staff and community members gathered in Thompson Gymnasium from 3 p.m. Friday, March 23 to 3 a.m. Saturday, March 24 for a night filled with heartfelt words and friendly faces.
Why hold this event overnight?
Because cancer never sleeps.
Colleges Against Cancer, a student-run Elizabethtown College organization, hosted its annual Relay for Life event to raise funds for the American Cancer Society. The crux of the event called for individuals and teams to walk around the track and make donations through various stands and activities.
This year’s theme was the works of Dr. Seuss, as evidenced by the “Seussville” arch at the entrance and detailed truffula trees decorating the walls. A number of Cat in the Hat hats were passed out, their bright colors and height easily visible among the crowd. Some fundraising teams were even named after Seuss stories—How the Grinch Beat Cancer, Green Eggs and Juan and The Lorax Ladies being three of many.
The event boasted 35 teams, which beat CAC’s goal of 20. These teams, formed by campus groups, families and friends, gave the event a small competitive fundraising edge to further encourage donations.
The first event of the night, the opening ceremony, featured heartfelt speeches by two cancer survivors. Those survivors were the first to walk the track, which was lined with applauding participants. After that, once teams were called to participate in the inaugural walk, the event kicked off.
While students and teams weren’t required to stay the whole time, those who participated for all twelve hours got to experience all of the activities E-town’s Relay for Life offered. Pie-ing professors became a fast favorite, and the club-hosted fair allowed participants to purchase snow cones, crafts and other treats for one ticket.
The event was interspersed with performances by campus groups. The “all male, all attractive” acapella group Phalanx opened the event with a soaring rendition of the National Anthem, while the women’s acapella group, Melica, hosted a performance later in the evening.
Another big draw was the Elizabethtown College Dance Team, who performed three dances throughout the night. Junior dance team member Britani Graver said two of the dances were part of the team’s routine, but the third was geared towards the purpose of the event.
That dance, called “Road Less Traveled,” spoke to the process of finding hope.
“It’s supposed to be uplifting,” Graver said. “It’s about finding the energy within you and using it as power.”
This was the junior’s second year participating in Relay. She said the event was energetic, as she could feel the passion and love radiating off of everyone present.
“I think it’s a really good event to raise money, because every little bit counts,” Graver said.
And every little bit did count—by the end of the weekend, E-town’s Relay for Life participants raised $29,106. While the goal was $55,000, it’s incredible to think that a few hundred eager and willing individuals could come together and collect the funding for a great cause.
The event was not just about fundraising, however. Another component of Relay for Life is remembering the lives of those who have fought or continue to fight cancer. The halfway point of Relay for Life is the Luminaria Ceremony, a quiet meditation dedicated to lives lost saved. Everyone was handed glow sticks and told to activate them if they had an aunt, uncle, grandparent, parent, sibling or friend affected by cancer.
As the room slowly lit up with a soft magenta glow, images sent in by participants flashed across screens near the stage. These images featured people who lost their lives to cancer, as well as people still fighting the disease.
Once all glow sticks were lit, the crowd took a silent lap around the track. Some put glow sticks in bags bearing the names of cancer victims and survivors; others held onto them for the sake of a loved one.
And while the walk, complete with musical accompaniment, left many teary-eyed, the moment felt far from hopeless. In fact, upon entering the gymnasium at the end of the walk, participants found dozens of Luminarias decorating the bleachers. Those Luminarias emblazoned the word “HOPE” for all to see.
The event returned to its light-hearted nature soon after, but walls decorated with the words of Seuss made it hard to forget why people were they, and why they were Relay-ing. As one wall complete with a cut-out of the Lorax said, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”