Friday, April 5 marked the eleventh annual Relay for Life at Shepherd University.
Relay for Life has become a fundraising tradition on campus. Every dollar earned goes to the cause of battling cancer. This year, there were a total of 50 teams and 632 participants. The 2013 goal for the university was $80,000, the same as last year.
The traditional event began with the torch run at 4 p.m. Cancer survivors led the parade and marched to the Wellness Center on West Campus where the fundraising and activities were located.
The Survivor walk began at 6 p.m. First, cancer survivors celebrated by taking a lap, their caregivers joined on the second lap, and the survivor’s family and friends joined in on the third.
Anne Miller is one of this year’s top participants.
Miller said, “It’s hard not to get emotional during the survivor lap. Watching someone take a stride when they weren’t even supposed to live is just an absolute miracle.”
Chera Bennett, another participant, also said that the survivor lap is one of her greatest memories as well.
Bennett said, “Seeing the little kids walking around during the survivor lap, knowing what that represents, it’s just so powerful.”
A third event of the night was the Luminaria Ceremony. During this time, names of those still struggling against cancer are written on a paper bag and then a candle is placed inside to illuminate their memory. Then, all of them are lined up together to spell the word “Hope.” The Luminaria Ceremony is another big tradition at Relay for Life.
Though it was an emotional night, the event kept going strong until 6 a.m. Plenty of fundraising tables selling a variety of baked goods, t-shirts, and trinkets were available inside the Wellness Center. Above, on the second floor, the track was open for participants and volunteers to walk.
The music kept the energy level up, and the track list was like an open forum. Songs could be dedicated to survivors or in loving memory of friends and family members.
This year was the second year that Shepherd hosted the event indoors in the Wellness Center. Prior to that, Relay for Life was held annually on the midway.
Caitlyn Johnson, a Relay for Life volunteer, said, “Hosting Relay indoors is a lot better. When it gets dark, it’s easier to see, keep everyone contained so they aren’t wondering off, and there is no threat of weather related issues.”
Johnson also believes that the new location offers an explanation as to why there are fewer participants this year than in 2012. Last year, there were 958 participants and 69 teams, a significant decrease in 326 participants and 19 teams during this year.
Johnson said, “People are still getting used to the new location, and I think that could be why there are fewer participants this year.”
Despite the decrease in participants, Shepherd University is almost to their goal. Saturday morning’s total left the university going strong at $63,224. Johnson was optimistic about meeting the Relay objective.
“I really believe that even if we aren’t able to make our goal by tonight, we will definitely make it by August, and that’s all that matters,” said Johnson.