Over four million people in the nation participate in this event each year. Internationally, 21 countries take part. It is estimated that over 3 billion dollars have been raised by this event to date.
This event is Relay for Life, the main cancer fundraising event of the American Cancer Society.
Started in 1985 by Dr. Gordy Klatt in Tacoma, Washington, Relay has grown from an individual’s passion to fight cancer into an international movement with the goal to end cancer indefinitely. The main objectives of Relay for Life are to raise money for cancer awareness and for cancer victims, to spread cancer awareness, to celebrate the lives of survivors, and to remember those who lost their lives to cancer.
The importance of Relay for Life can be seen by the statistics: Cancer will affect 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women in the United States, and the number of new cases of cancer is set to nearly double by the year 2050.
For many students at McDaniel, joining Relay and the fight against cancer is personal. Senior Kim Kalinyak participates for her family and friends.
“Cancer has affected me personally, in both family and friends, and I would love to find a cure for every strain of this horrible disease that affects so many people,” said Kalinyak, who loves the way that Relay brings students together on a personal level.
There are three main parts to Relay for Life: the Survivor Lap/Dinner, the Luminary Ceremony, and the “Fight Back” Ceremony. These are moments to remember the survivors, the loved ones lost, and individuals currently struggling with this awful disease. At McDaniel, this powerful evening generally lasts through the night and into the morning hours at Bair Stadium.
The money raised through Relay is divided among all aspects of the cancer process. It goes towards national research grants and research programs, prevention programs, community support programs, detection and treatment programs, as well as management, future fundraising events, and even the construction of Hope Lodges. Even the smallest donations can be the biggest help.
Megan Roach, Senior and Dance Company Team Leader, has been involved with Relay for five years. Relay has morphed from a fun event to the opportunity to fight for something real.
“My favorite part of Relay at McDaniel is seeing how many students care about this cause and take one of their last nights of the semester to show it. When the McDaniel track is full of students who have raised money for cancer research, it is inspirational and makes you realize that people our age can make a difference,” said Roach.
Sophomore Jess Hague, a member of the Gamma Sig Relay Team, is involved because of her great-grandmother, a 90-year-old woman and a two-time cancer survivor. For her, the highlight of Relay last year was the last lap of the event.
“Everyone looked beat and it took us forever to make it around the rack but we were all there to fight cancer. We were really proud of ourselves,” said Hague.
Kalinyak believes that everyone has a reason to get involved not only for themselves, but for future generations as well.
“I know I have a good chance of getting many different cancers because of family history and I would to be able to turn around one day and say I will never have to be scared of that again,” said Kalinyak.
Relay for Life is all about these moments that cannot easily be forgotten, combined with the feelings of strength and hope shared by everyone at the event.
Junior Ashley Day participated in Relay for the first time last year, and is now excited to head her own team.
“Other people should get involved with Relay because, whether they believe it or not, we are all affected by cancer, both directly and indirectly. It’s time we all come together and fight for a cure collectively,” said Day.
It is easy to become a participant in Relay at McDaniel College. This year, Relay will be held on April 29, 2011. Interested students can go to the Relay website for McDaniel College, at www.relayforlife.org/McDaniel, to sign up and get more information about the event. Prospective participants can also contact the event co-chairs for McDaniel, Emily Reed, firstname.lastname@example.org, and Marilyn Topper, email@example.com.
It is never too early to join a team or make your own and start getting involved! Registration is free for all teams through October. Getting involved in this great cause will make memories as well as a difference in the future of the community.