Feel the love: “Kissing Cancer Goodbye”

This Valentine’s Day was all about sharing the love for those impacted by cancer.

Last Friday, SVSU students, faculty and other community members gathered together at Relay for Life to raise $40,638 for the American Cancer Society.

Relay for Life is the year’s top fundraising effort to battle cancer.

The Valley Vanguard

Vanguard photo | Amelia Brown

Instead of dinner and a movie, students, faculty and community members spent their Valentine’s Day raising money for the American Cancer Society. With the motto, “Kiss Cancer Goodbye,” Relay for Life hosted Valentine’s Day events like a date auction.

Valentine’s Day was a recurring theme throughout most of the tables and stations set up by organizations.  This started with this year’s motto of “Kiss Cancer Goodbye.”

“We just all stopped and looked at each other and said ‘There’s our theme for the year: Kiss Cancer Goodbye,’” said Rachel Hubbard, Colleges Against Cancer president.

Multiple couples appeared at Relay for Life and spent the day together, helping support the fight against cancer even on the day that is normally reserved for romantic gestures.

“There’s a lot of cute things for couples around here, like the caricaturist set up by Student Association,” student Gavin Bennett said.  He was attending the event with his girlfriend.

There were other events that went with the theme of Valentine’s Day in the schedule, including the date auction hosted by the planning committee.  Student Brittany Jewett was among those who were auctioned off.

“I relay for my aunt who was a survivor here today, and it was just awesome to help people survive like my aunt,” Jewett said.  “I feel like, especially since it’s on Valentine’s Day, people like entertainment.”

The night saw other events, including a talent show hosted by SVSU’s Student Occupational Therapy Association and a belly dancing and pompon performance.

Relay for Life also had attendees show their spirit by dressing for the Spirit of Relay competition. The winner was the person who showed the most spirit in their costume, energy and attitude.

Heather Sharpe, a member of the planning committee, was this year’s Spirit of Relay winner.

“I’m really passionate about Relay,” Sharpe said. “Last year I saw people dress up really cool, and I thought that was the coolest thing ever.”

SVSU’s chapter of Colleges Against Cancer hosted Relay for Life. Hubbard said the planning started back in July, with goals including the target fundraising goal of $51,000.

Last semester, the organization also hosted a 5K Color Run which kicked off their fundraising season.

Hubbard said that the only days that could be booked for the event were Valentine’s Day, Spring Break or during finals week.

“We have to work with the Ryder’s availability, and that played a big part,” she said.  “We took a risk with Valentine’s Day.”

Although the group was worried about the event being scheduled on Valentine’s Day, Hubbard was pleasantly surprised by the event’s success.

“What surprised me has got to be the turnout.  We expected lower rates, but it seemed like the day hasn’t even affected us,” Hubbard said. “I would say we surpassed our participant numbers from last year by a good couple hundred.”

Relay for Life is organized because of a serious cause, and included more serious events.  The Survivor Ceremony is one of those events, where survivors and caretakers march along the track as onlookers clap and cheer.

Another event on the schedule was the Luminaria Ceremony.  Bags were lit up along the track with glow sticks, and attendees walked in silence, placing their own glow sticks in bags in honor and respect.

“The Luminaria Ceremony made me feel really sad because I’ve had quite a few family members affected by cancer myself,” student Rachel Dong said.  “You see everyone coming together for one good cause.”

There was also the Fight Back Ceremony, in which those gathered at Relay for Life were encouraged to fight back against cancer in any way possible.

During the Closing Ceremony, Greek Life organizations dedicated the money they earned for Relay in memory of John Schmidt, a student and Phi Kappa Tau member who passed away in December after his battle with acute myeloid leukemia.

“Cancer is one of those things that affects everybody, every day,” Relay participant Kyle Sproull said. “If it’s my dollar, your dollar, the next guy’s dollar, we somehow could find a cure for cancer. Imagine how many lives would be saved.”

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