While Friday, Feb. 10, marked only the opening of the donation season for the American Cancer Society, over $30,000 was raised by the end of SVSU’s annual Relay For Life event.
Hosted by SVSU’s Colleges Against Cancer and held in the O’Neill Arena inside the Ryder Center, registered student organizations (RSOs) and community leaders gathered to financially support the fight against cancer, from noon until midnight.
The money raised Friday will help individuals diagnosed with cancer retain use of vital utilities, pay for lodging and transportation to facilities, access accommodations during treatment, and have access to free medical information.
Without fundraising events like Relay For Life, cancer patients would have to find a way to pay for expenses, in addition to their medical fees, by themselves.
Forty-eight to 50 teams participated in the Relay, including campus RSOs and agencies like Covenant HealthCare. Teams sold shirts, hosted contests and walked laps around the arena track.
“We have a lot of repeat teams that come every year,” said College Against Cancer Vice President Jessica Hacker.
Relay participants sometimes find more inventive ways to raise money.
For a small fee, one could be followed by a recorder-wielding participant. The one being followed would then have to pay to stop the raucous noise.
Thus, “Hot Cross Buns” and “Mary Had a Little Lamb” could be heard throughout the evening as Relay participants paid students to annoy their friends, all in the name of supporting cancer survivors and those currently battling cancer.
Sometimes, participants donated more than their time or money. John Vorderbrueggan, who attended Relay as a member of the Tau Kappa Epsilon (TKE) team, for instance, raised over $200 by accepting donations to either shave or save his hair.
“I’ve been growing it out ever since last year,” he said. “I’ve dyed it the two previous years for Relay, but this year I wanted to do something different. It’s just an awesome cause.”
At the end of the night, the amount of donations in the “shave” jar won out. Students then had the opportunity to donate one dollar to join TKE members on stage to help shave his head.
“Having Relay at a college gets younger people more involved for sure,” Hacker said. “It allows more interaction with college-aged students who I feel are often left out.”
President of Colleges Against Cancer Courtney Franzel said it takes a lot of effort to throw the event.
“To put something like this on, we started planning back in July,” Franzel said. “It takes a lot of commitment. The event brings everyone in the community out, and it brings people to SVSU.”
While fundraising is a critical component to aiding those diagnosed with the disease, emotional support is also an important part of the Relay process.
During the Luminaria Ceremony, participants placed illuminated bags along the Relay walkway in remembrance of those who lost their fight against cancer.
The Luminaria Ceremony allows survivors, families and friends to grieve, but it also acts as a grounding force, reminding participants of the need for funding events like the Relay For Life.
Franzel said Relay means a great deal to those who participate and to those who benefit from the fundraiser.
“This number is not just a total,” she said. “This is the help for a family struggling to make ends meet. This number represents lodging for family so they don’t have to travel as far. This number is another step closer, another step closer to a cure.”