Stadium Conflict Brings Relay for Life Inside

The American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life will not be held in McDaniel’s newly-renovated stadium this year. The night-long fundraiser, which stipulates that one member of each participating team must be walking or running throughout the event, will be held in Gill Gymnasium Center.

In 2010 and 2011, when Relay for Life was held outdoors, McDaniel’s Relay for life raised $32,848 and $26,579, respectively. Last year in 2012, when the event was held in the gym due to construction of the stadium, $18,103 was raised. At press time, just over $13,000 had been raised by McDaniel’s Relay for Life participants this year. At its peak in 2010 when the event was held outdoors, 439 people participated. When it was held inside in 2012, however, Relay for Life drew 278 participants.

Relay for Life was founded on an outdoor track. When Dr. Gordy Klatt of Tacoma, Washington decided that he wanted to raise funds for The American Cancer Society in 1985, he did so by spending 24 hours on his local track, logging over 80 miles. Friends, family and patients donated to spend 30 minutes running or walking with him. By the end of the night, he had raised $27,000 and started what would become the worldwide movement that is Relay for Life.

As it evolved and grew, elements of Relay for Life became standardized and deeply rooted in the use of the track. The survivor’s walk, one of the opening elements of the 12-hour fundraising event, invites survivors to take the first lap of the night in order to celebrate their success and be recognized for their battle. A luminary ceremony occurring after dark to commemorate those who have lost the fight to cancer also traditionally entails the use of an outdoor facility.

McDaniel’s Relay for Life Executive Committee, headed by Michelle Woshner, began planning to use the stadium and booked the space in October with the intention of holding the Relay for Life from 6PM to 6AM, as specified by the national organization. They were informed that there was a possibility that sports teams would need the stadium’s field for practice during part of the time that they had reserved the space.

“In early November there was a possibility that the [women’s] lacrosse team might be practicing, but the ‘might’ remained up until the beginning of April when they actually decided that practice would be from 6-7:30, knowing full well that Relay was on the schedule,” said Woshner.

Upon the confirmation that the times of the intended start of Relay for Life and women’s lacrosse practice would overlap, the Relay for Life Executive Committee found themselves with various options for moving forward, such as running the opening ceremony and survivor’s lap concurrently with the lacrosse practice, holding the opening ceremony in one of the quads and then moving down into the stadium after the lacrosse practice ended, or moving into the gym for the entire evening. For those organizing the event, all of these options proved problematic and they began to search for further options.

Of the seven month decision period, Christine Workman, Director of Student Engagement, suggested that planning to have Relay for Life in the stadium may have occurred “without realizing what [the Athletics department] had said…I think the issue is that anytime you reserve space you have to remember that you might have to make concessions, especially with athletic facilities.”

Andrew Keogh, the Team Retention Head of the Relay for Life Executive Committee, explained his hesitations with compromising the use of the stadium and his fears about sharing space with a practicing team, saying, “We cannot take the chance of anyone, especially a cancer survivor, getting hit with a lacrosse ball.”

Additionally, Keogh expressed that holding the ceremony during lacrosse practice would prove problematic because Relay for Life would not be able to play music during the survivor’s lap, as he was told that it might distract the practicing team. His request to hold the opening ceremony near the baseball field above the stadium and move onto the track after the lacrosse practice had ended was never answered.

“The concessions that Relay for Life are required to make are greater than what we asked [of the Athletics Department],” Keogh said.

Keogh also proposed compromises to the women’s lacrosse coach, Marjorie Bliss, such as moving the lacrosse practice time to an earlier slot, but was informed that this was implausible due to the class schedules of some team members.

When the Free Press attempted to reach Bliss for comment, they were directed to Athletic Director Paul Moyer, who asserted, “Relay for Life just did not like the answer they received so the leaders choose to run around campus and talk to other folks to try and get the answer changed.”

Upon considering the option of holding the opening ceremony elsewhere, the Relay for Life Executive Committee ultimately decided against using two separate locations because, according to Keogh, “two different locations would be difficult logistically. We wanted a central location. There are too many people, too many things to move across campus for that to be plausible.”

The Executive Committee also feared losing student and community support, and therefore donations, if there was a location change after the opening ceremony. A substantial portion of money raised by Relay for Life occurs at the event itself through fundraisers organized by the participating teams.

According to Woshner, “The biggest pro that we’ve experienced is that we draw a lot more donations when we are in the stadium as opposed to the gym, and that is the main goal of Relay for Life.”

“Last year’s Relay just wasn’t as successful in terms of numbers or fundraising,” Keogh explained. “For a college that values service and philanthropy as much as we do, it’s a shame that sports have priority over the biggest student-run fundraiser.”

Athletic Director Moyer voiced concern for the lacrosse players practicing for a game the next morning, however, saying, “I would hope in the future, as in the past, the Relay for Life committee would understand we will not displace one student group for another.”

Workman, Director of Student Engagement also looks to the future, saying that it is necessary for all involved parties to “have a unified communication plan.”

“It’s unfortunate that we had to scramble like this” acknowledged Woshner. “But the fact of the matter is that we have a jam-packed schedule full of fun activities, and it’s going to be a great night where we can celebrate those we know who have beaten cancer and honor those we’ve lost.”



Author’s Note 4/26/13: “Melissa Bliss” was changed to “Marjorie Bliss”

12 Comments on "Stadium Conflict Brings Relay for Life Inside"

  1. Ethan Wilson | April 25, 2013 at 8:49 pm |

    What message are we sending out into the community McDaniel? On one hand we have a legitimate means of raising funds to combat cancer, one of the most pressing medical crises in the history of mankind, and on the other hand we have one practice for a sports team. I have been involved in athletics and practice is very important, practice makes perfect after all. But I dare you to tell someone that you think it is more important than curing cancer. Go up, look them right in the eye, and tell them that. Don’t mistake what I’m trying to say, is Relay going to be absolutely ruined by being placed in the gym? No. Could the Women’s Lacrosse team have moved to another practice field for the remaining portion of their practice? Yes. If all of the other fields, of which there are three, were in use could they have gone and done some light running, lifting, or other activities and then taken some time to rest for their game? Yes. “We will not displace one group of students for another”. Yes, it is truly a terrible inconvenience to move half of one practice out of the entire season for a good cause, I see your point. “Relay for Life just did not like the answer they received so the leaders choose to run around campus and talk to other folks to try and get the answer changed.” Simply appalling that the student leaders of the student organization that has worked all year to get students involved in this event should inconvenience the administration, which by the way boasts of all the student organizations on campus, in an attempt to give this fundraiser it’s best chance to be successful. This represents an appalling disconnect between several facets of the administration and not only the students but the professed liberal and humanitarian goals of this college

  2. Matthew Love | April 25, 2013 at 8:59 pm |

    As a committee member I just want to thank Christine Workman for all of her efforts to ease the talks between both parties. She was extremely helpful to us and should be regarded as such when making your personal judgments on the matter.

  3. MIssy Jameson | April 25, 2013 at 10:00 pm |

    I’m just not sure why this was even an argument. Lacrosse PRACTICE vs. Raising funds to cure cancer? seems like that should have been an obvious choice as to which party should get the field. it would be one thing if it were a lacrosse game, which would be nearly impossible to reschedule. but seriously? a practice? Come on Mcdaniel, this is downright shameful that a sports team’s practice should come before a major nationally recognized organization’s fund raiser that has been planned for a year with hundreds of student participants, cancer survivors, and family members. as a former lacrosse player who has relatives that have died from cancer, I would not show up to practice that day. its THAT simple.

  4. Gretchen Griffith | April 25, 2013 at 11:49 pm |

    I can completely understand the frustration surrounding the change in venue for Relay for Life. Being a participant of this event myself, and hoping to honor a family friend that passed away of cancer two week ago, I am moved by the efforts of every one involved. However, that being said, I feel as though this article diminishes the efforts of our athletics department. I am not trying to persuade anyone that any one organization should take precedence over another, but I do not think that this article has presented both sides of the story. I am a former athlete in addition to being a participant in this event. I understand that the planning committee has been working for months to successfully organize a large event, but haven’t our athletes been training for months as well? These athletes have dedicated many hours to represent McDaniel at the collegiate level. An athlete who is preparing for an upcoming game does need to practice on the type of field he/she will be playing on in order to be as successful as possible. I also believe we should celebrate our athletes having a successful season, and making it into playoffs for the first time in years. This, too, required months of preparation. Although some of the ambiance is different from holding this event in the gym, this in no way hinders the positive feelings that go out to anyone who has fought, is fighting, has survived, or passed away from cancer. To worry about trivial things, like venue, when we collectively as a group are trying to raise peoples’ spirits is just that: trivial. I believe instead of placing blame or promoting negative feelings towards our athletics department we should instead remember what the event is truly about. We should remember that we are honoring those who are fighting to end cancer.

    • If this were the case, then why didn’t the sources on the athletics side provide the author with that information? As a former journalism student, I must say that it’s difficult to represent a side of a story when you’re being denied information because holding back for the sake of appearing professional, which is what probably happened because that’s what representatives of an institution typically do.

      This isn’t to say that the athletics department does or does not have a fair claim. They just can’t claim to be unfairly represented based on the information they did or did not give the reporter.

      Perhaps quoting some student athletes who are more able to speak freely would have helped, but this is already a pretty in-depth article, especially compared to what the Free Press has been putting out lately

  5. Colin Miller | April 26, 2013 at 7:24 am |

    As a Alumni, this is the sort of thing that brings negative connotations to mind when picturing the new McDaniel Swag.
    I often don’t enjoy RFL much because of the pretentious people that say things like “come cure cancer!” No, this is a fundraiser event to assist the people who have the knowledge to potentially cure cancer. I see that same ostentatious attitude on social media over this issue today.
    None the less, the event has become a yearly milestone event for the community of McDaniel. It gains an impressive sum of money, entertains students, and acts as positive PR/recruitment for the institutions. The night of RFL goes deeper than numbers and donation amounts, it brings survivors together, crosses generational differences, gathers students for a cause, serves as a leadership opportunity for students and faculty. This broke down when, the leadership of the faculty failed to weigh one event over another. The job of a coordinator is to set standards and recognize opportunities and provide solutions to all parties. A solution was provided without recognizing the differential of the opposing parties. Shame on you swag staff for allowing this to continue. Good Work McDaniel Free Press

  6. “I would hope in the future, as in the past, the Relay for Life committee would understand we will not displace one student group for another.”

    If the situation was so simple, I would accept this logic. And I do respect the right of the sports teams to have priority when it comes to utilizing athletic facilities.

    But to reduce Relay For Life to a simple student group strikes me as very disrespectful. This is a national event intended to unite the community–the McDaniel community as well as the greater Westminster community–and honor individuals who have faced the tremendous challenge of fighting cancer. This event is meant to be bigger than anything other student-organized event on campus, because it reaches out to more than just the student body.

    Even if the use of the field could not be granted to Relay, would you really look a cancer survivor, or fighter, or caregiver, in the eye and tell them that an effort to honor them did not merit mildly inconveniencing a sports team?

  7. Gretchen Griffith | April 26, 2013 at 4:57 pm |

    I am not the writer of this piece, and am not insinuating I know what information that was given to this reporter. Being a former journalism myself I do realize the importance in properly representing both sides of the story. I have difficulty having trust in a reporter’s validity when they call the coach “Melissa Bliss” when in actuality her name is Marjorie Bliss. This is a very simple, objective fact to check. If they did not know the women’s lacrosse coach’s name, then how can we trust that the information we have received is in any way factual?

    • While such an error does reflect fact-checking, I think Slater’s status as a three-season athlete should help balance any distrust with the article. The fact that she is able to separate that potential conflict of interest from the content of her article (you wouldn’t even be able to tell that if you didn’t know her) should speak to her neutrality.

  8. The author of this article correctly refers to the women’s lacrosse coach as Marjorie, not Melissa.

    • You mean after it was corrected right? Because this read as Melissa Bliss until Saturday, and I support Gretchen in what she is saying. Just throwing this out there.

  9. “we will not displace one student group for another.”

    Okay, consider how many student groups have Relay for Life teams. Obviously way more than one. So the Athletic Dept. basically put one group over many, if you think about it that way.

    I hope both sides involved learn from this experience for next year so conflicts like this can be avoided.

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