March 31, 2008

Cornell, I.C. Students Raise Over $200K at Relay for Life

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On Saturday night, 2,500 Cornell and Ithaca College students looked on as a group of cancer survivors kicked off this year’s Relay for Life with a victory lap around the track in Barton Hall.
The smiling group of men, women and children proudly donned purple shirts, emblazoned with the word “survivor” in large, capital letters, as family, friends and hundreds of supporters cheered them along for their quarter mile celebration.
The survivors were then joined by their companions. Soon all those who have been affected by the disease joined in, and, eventually, every foot in Barton Hall was in motion around the track.
The 12-hour event, held from 7 p.m. on Saturday until 7 a.m. the next morning, raised a total of $207,341, which will be donated to the American Cancer Society.
According to Emily Laucks ’09, vice president of the Cornell Chapter of Colleges Against Cancer (CAC), a subset of the ACS, another $15,000 is expected to trickle in during the weeks following the event.
Each year, more than 2.25 million people, including 460,000 cancer survivors, in more than 3,600 communities worldwide take part in this overnight event to raise funds for ACS research, education, advocacy and patient services.[img_assist|nid=29295|title=Rally at Relay|desc=A student gets her face painted at Relay for Life in Barton Hall on Saturday.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
146 teams spent the night in Barton, representing various Cornell and Ithaca College student organizations, sports teams, clubs and friends. Each team set up camp in the middle of the track — their territories’ marked with colorful team banners, sleeping bags, beach chairs and snacks.
Throughout the night, members of each team circled the track in shifts. Other teammates were free to visit various themed tables set up along the track, watch a constant stream of performances by a cappella groups, dance troupes and even jump ropers, or participate in contests, including a Texas Hold-Em contest and a Miss Relay competition.
The proceeds of each activity are pooled with the funds raised by Relay and donated to the ACS.
Other activities at Relay focused on commemorating those who have been affected by cancer. Participants could decorate a star that read “Why I Relay!” allowing participants to understand their personal motivations for participating. Further down the track, a healthy eating table set up by the I.C. Nutrition Club promoted habits that help contribute to a healthy and cancer-free lifestyle.
Throughout the night, participants decorated luminaria in honor of cancer survivors and those who have died. While each of the 12 hours of Relay for Life are dedicated to celebrating strength, life and hope, the luminaria ceremony marked a special time during the Relay to reflect and honor both those who have survived the battle and those who have lost their lives.
The ceremony opened with a speech from Samantha Solomon ’08, this year’s recipient of the Eternal Flame Award, an essay contest for Relay for Life participants. The contest provides an opportunity for people to share their stories about how they have been affected by cancer. Solomon shared her own experience in battling cancer.
As Solomon’s speech came to an end and her supporters cheered, the lights in Barton hall dimmed. Each of the 2,500 participants walked in silent reflection as hundreds of luminaria twinkled in the darkness.
“I hope that the ceremony gave everyone a chance to remember those who they have lost to cancer, support those fighting cancer and celebrate those who have fought the disease and won,” Solomon said.
According to Camille Emma ’10, a member of CAC, the ceremony is the most powerful moment of the evening.
“It’s truly incredible to look out and see how many people are out there on the track supporting the cause,” Emma said.
Last year, Cornell and Ithaca College Relay for Life raised the second most money per capita of all of the Relays in the entire nation, behind Virginia Tech. “This year, we hope to have clinched first place,” Laucks said.
The past four years have been an exciting learning process for the CAC.
“It’s really great to see how such a new event at Cornell can become so big and so successful in such a short time. This year I think we had a much better presence on campus and as a result I think the relay had a lot more energy,” said Laucks.
A separate relay will be held in the summer for the Ithaca community though all are welcome to come out again to spend the night.