Cancer never sleeps, and on Friday night, neither will over 1,000 Boston College students, professors, alumni, and friends.
From 6 p.m. on March 28 to 6 a.m. the next day, the Flynn Recreation Complex will be filled with participants walking the track for BC’s seventh annual Relay For Life.
The event is a community-based fundraising event hosted by the American Cancer Society. There are Relays For Life in 20 countries, but the ones on college campuses are known for being especially successful, said Becca Johnson, CSOM ’17, who is on the corporate sponsorship committee. BC’s chapter started in 2008.
Last year’s Relay For Life raised about $146,000. This year, the committee hopes to raise $150,000. The proceeds from the event go directly to the American Cancer Society to fund research, advocacy, patient services, and education.
Many people are attracted to the event because their lives have been affected by someone who has cancer, said Casey Osgood, LSOE ’14, who is a co-chair of the event.
“I just love how it really unites people, not even just at BC but across the U.S. and around the world,” Osgood said. “People who do relays know that it’s such a great night for people to come together and celebrate those who have beat the disease, remember those who have passed away, and keep fighting back against the disease that affects so many people around the world.”
This year’s relay will begin with all of the survivors in attendance taking a lap together, and then all of the caretakers joining in. After that, everyone else will join in. The caregiver lap is new this year-it was added to honor and thank caregivers of cancer patients for all that they have done.
One of the biggest ceremonies of the night is the Luminaria ceremony, said Mark Maleri, CSOM ’15, who is a co-chair of the event. At 10 p.m., everyone will gather together, the lights in the Plex will dim, and Survivorship Chair Meghan Woody, A&S ’14, who has fought leukemia twice while at BC, will speak. Following this, participants will be invited to crack the glowsticks they are given and walk the track to honor the person they are celebrating. It’s an emotional ceremony wherein songs are sung by The Acoustics, and student speakers talk about their experiences with cancer.
“It’s really a time for you to sit down and think, ‘Why am I here? Why am I doing this?'” Maleri said. “It’s a really somber moment.”
In addition to the Luminaria ceremony, student bands and dance groups will be performing throughout the night to keep people having fun, Maleri said.
There will also be various activities, like Zumba, sunrise yoga, and basketball and volleyball tournaments, taking place in the basketball and tennis courts. The theme of this year’s Relay For Life is “Destination: Hope. Passport to a Cure.” This travel theme will be emphasized through the screening of the movie Up, as well as within events like a travel-themed relay race, wherein participants will have to pack bags and take them all around the Plex.
Food will also be provided, although it will only be free for those participants who have raised $100 or more. Everyone who reached this goal will also receive a free t-shirt. All of the committee members are expected to raise $100, as well, Johnson said.
“We wouldn’t ask any of the relayers to do something that we wouldn’t do ourselves,” she said.
In addition to individual fundraising, the organization holds various events throughout the school year. On Valentine’s Day, it sold nearly 30 dozen roses and raised $1,000. Fundraising continues until August 31, when this year’s Relay For Life officially ends.
“Even though this is our event commemorating everything, it doesn’t stop at the event,” Maleri said. “In the past years, we’ve teamed up with Nights on the Heights, we’ve teamed up with UGBC. It’s really great to see other organizations on campus that want to help out our cause and want to be a part of something.”
For each lap a participant takes, he or she will receive a bead to put on a string. As the night progresses, the string of beads will grow. Tradition has it that at least one person from each team is walking around the track at the same time, but BC’s Relay For Life does not enforce that rule, Osgood said.
“We really want people to make whatever they want of the night and have fun and enjoy it,” she said.
Osgood’s mother and two of her aunts have all fought cancer. These three women have inspired her to keep fighting for a world without cancer, she said.
“If it’s taught me anything, it’s taught me to never lose hope,” she said. “They’re just really inspirational, and they make me keep want to going and keep fighting this fight and seeing a world without cancer.
“There’s always more that you can do, no matter what cause you support, but I think Relay For Life is definitely such a great way.”