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There’s a lot to put your dedication into now a days. Personally, I know it’s hard to decide what to focus your energy on, but there’s one event I’ve consistently been a part of for the past 8 years – and don’t plan on stopping. And no, there’s no running involved.

Relay for Life is an organization that holds fundraising events nationally and also internationally every spring to raise money for those who are fighting for their lives against any variation of cancer. It helps people get rides to treatment centers, offers lodges near hospitals, and provide the care that they need in order to remain resilient against this disease.

There are over 14 million people living with cancer in the United States alone, and another 1.7 million are diagnosed with the disease each year. Cancer doesn’t affect just a certain age group or certain people in specific areas of the country – anyone can be affected by cancer at any moment, and it can turn your life and the lives of your loved ones around in a matter of hours.

That’s why I relay, and why I’ve continued to participate in fundraising after all these years: since the founding of the American Cancer Society, cancer rates have dropped over 25% nationally. Until cancer rates are low and cancer is no longer a common disease, I will keep organizing, walking and fundraising in whatever community I’m in.

The majority of people reading this have been touched by cancer in some way. Whether it is your parents, grandparents, friends, family, or even yourselves, everyone knows someone who has been affected and it shouldn’t be that way. Unfortunately, since this is the reality of this disease, it is all too common to have been affected by it. And, unless you’re directly involved in research and the science behind finding a cure, helping in any way may seem almost hopeless.

That’s why I relay. So that this disease becomes uncommon, and so that those who have the means have enough funding to continue working on a cure to eliminate it. I want every step that I take at Relay to be in memory of someone, to help someone get treatment, and to help researchers eventually find a cure. You may think that you can’t make a large-scale difference, but I promise that every step you take and every hour you dedicate to a cause can truly impact and even save someone’s life.

Why do I relay? Why doesn’t everyone? Creating a team and gathering your friends together for a night of community, activities, and solidarity seems like a small feat for the major impact that Relay actually has. Fundraising, honoring patients, survivors and those who have lost the battle is something that anyone can get involved in, and over 600 universities participate in relay nationwide – not the mention local relays that also majorly impact fundraising.

Saving lives and combating disease while having a memorable night don’t seem like they go hand in hand, but for all of those who I have lost and have fought against this disease, I know that I am making a difference. I lost my grandmother four months before I was born, and that is someone who I never got to know because of cancer. She never got to meet me, and now, I will never get to meet her, and this is why I relay.

Too many people lose the fight and struggle for their lives every single day for this horrific disease to go unnoticed, and for that reason, I relay, and I always will relay. Because we don’t need to lose people too early and see those that we love suffer; we can each make a difference, and for one night a year, it is a small price to pay to change someone’s life forever.

All images courtesy of Melanie Haid

Melanie is a senior journalism major at Hofstra University and an avid fashion and thrift-y gal. She also loves dogs and finds paint-by-numbers to be extremely calming. Always overdressed and has definitely had at least one cup of coffee. She is not only extremely sarcastic, but will be your own personal hypewoman if you'll let her.
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