Elon University’s fifth annual Relay for Life fundraiser raised roughly $75,000 for American Cancer Society (ACS), according to Marisa Palumbo, the ACS community development manager for the Southeast region.
Survivors, fighters, caregivers and those who have lost their lives to cancer were honored for 12 hours straight on Friday, April 20.
“Cancer patients don’t stop because they’re tired, and for one night, neither do we,” reads Relay for Life’s website.
Forty teams of Elon organizations, including Colleges Against Cancer (CAC), sororities, fraternities, club sports, the admissions office, Inter-Residence Council, Campus Recreation and other clubs participated in the event.
“My favorite thing was probably the amount of support from other organizations,” said freshman Johanna Giordano, who lost her mother to ovarian cancer seven years ago. “I love how involved they were and I loved how each organization had a table for fundraising.”
Aside from fundraising before and during the event, the organizations participated by circling the Phoenix Activities and Recreation Center’s (PARC) interior hundreds of times, listening to attendees’ stories and cracking glow sticks in honor of those affected by cancer.
Dr. Michele Parker, who specializes in family medicine, is the mother of sophomore Mikaela Mutchler and spoke to the crowd about her experience fighting breast cancer.
“Cancer may find you, and it doesn’t care about your medical degree, and sometimes, it doesn’t care how healthy you are. … It doesn’t care how many people need you and depend on you,” she said. “Medicine is an art as much as a science. … It brought new meaning to my work as a doctor, being a patient.”
Fighting breast cancer also gave Parker a new perspective on life as a whole.
“What cancer teaches you is to love life,” she said. “It teaches you exactly what is precious by threatening to take it away.”
Unlike Mutchler, many attendees are not as quite as fortunate as to have a cancer survivor in their lives. Seniors Rachel Tinker and Charlotte Hinrichs both participate in Relay for Life in honor of their respective fathers who passed away during their time at Elon.
Through fundraising, Tinker made the highest individual donation at $4,500, and Hinrichs made the second highest at $2,150.
Hinrich’s favorite part of Relay for Life is the luminary ceremony. “It is a time to honor and remember those who have lost their fight to cancer, as well as a time to honor the ones who are still fighting,” she said.
“During luminaries, the lights all go off, everyone is given a glow stick and a member of exec ... says, ‘Crack your glow stick if you are here for a mother. Crack your glow stick if you are here for a father,’ and it continues with brother, sister, grandmother, grandfather, friend, neighbor, etc. ... Eventually all of the luminaries are lit up with glow sticks.”
Like Giordano, Tinker thinks Relay for Life benefits the Elon community by uniting so many students from the various organizations on campus.
“Relay is the type of event where you look around and feel surrounded by a support system. I've developed relationships with people I know I can always talk to if I'm having a rough day because they understand why,” Tinker said. “Relay also helps you to realize just how many lives cancer touches, and really motivates me to continue to fundraise and raise awareness in hopes of finding a cure.”