One night for the past four spring semesters at St. Mary’s, the ARC has been inundated with purple. Purple banners, purple t-shirts, playing dress-up, and goofy contests are just some of the things that one encounters during Relay for Life, a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, which is hosted by communities and colleges across the nation.
Relay for Life is a relatively new event at the college, and has only been in place for the last four years. Junior Colleen Hughes, one of the co-chairs of Relay for Life, said “The first event was six hours. It was just a test to see if there was interest in the event, but it’s been a 12-hour event ever since, and it’s success has grown each year.”
This year’s Relay for Life began on the evening of Sat., March 2 at 6 p.m., and continued throughout the night into the wee hours of the morning until officially ending at 6 a.m. on March 3.
According to Hughes, this years event raised 34, 288. 55 dollars. “Just under the goal [of 35,000], but we’ll definitely hit it by the end of the semester,” said Hughes.
“We still have some post-relay fundraisers that should bring us to our goal,” added co-chair sophomore Teresa Padgett.
Activities ranging from a water pong tournament to an a capella concert to a fashion show of clothes made of newspapers were held throughout the night.
“[Padgett] and I have trying to been do some changes, nothing really major,” said Hughes. This year’s Miss Relay (in which male students wore dresses in a pageant) has been replaced with a costume contest open to all.
One of Hughes’ main goals for Relay was to make it more visible and familiar on campus. “We have tried to reach out to the St. Mary’s community beyond the student body, as it’s a completely student-run event. We try to reach out to faculty and staff,” she said. “For example, Bon Appetit has been amazing. They’re donating so much to us.”
This year, Dean of Students Roberto Ifill, who is well known on campus for his collection of quirky bow-ties, ran a “Bow-tying Workshop,” in which he taught students how to tie a bow-tie. Following the lesson, Ifill hosted a bow-tying contest, where in whoever tied the best-looking bow-tie won one of his own bow-ties as a prize.
The SMCM Men’s Basketball team competed in the first round of the NCAA Tournament the same night as Relay, and both events took place in the ARC. However, Hughes saw it as “a whole other opportunity to bring in parents, students, or athletes that might not come otherwise. They’ll come out of the basketball game and hear all of the fun things happening just down the hall, and hopefully they’ll come join us!”
A new addition to the Relay preparation, students were invited to attend the Cancer Cell Biology Colloquium in Schaefer, based on Visiting Professor of Biology Yi-Tak Lai’s Cancer Cell Biology class. “We invited the students in the class to make presentations on the science of cancer, and I think the whole class, without gaining extra credit, offered to help out to make posters and presentations about cancer so that students can learn about what we’re trying to fight,” said Hughes.
Hughes stressed that Relay is an event that is open to the entire St. Mary’s community. “Anybody could come, you don’t have to register. It’s nice to know for security reasons, as it’s an alcohol-free event where we don’t want people showing up inebriated,” she said, “but on the whole anyone is welcome to participate whether they register or not.”
Both Hughes and Padgett were inspired by personal experience to lead this year’s Relay. “Within the first month of my freshmen year, my mom passed away from cancer, and it was hard because at that point I didn’t have many friends on campus,” said Hughes. “But by the time I got back, so many people knew that they reached out to me. It’s an issue that touches so many lives, but people usually keep that information private, because it’s a painful experience. Why don’t we share this with each other and support each other? People talk about Relay as a fun event, but we need to remember why we’re doing this, we’re doing this for our friends and family who have been battling cancer.”
Padgett has been participating in Relay “all throughout high school,” and became a part of the SMCM Relay Committee last year. “I have several family members and family friends who have been touched by cancer,” she said, “and I want to do all I can to help in the fight against cancer. I love how involved our community gets with the Relay event and I believe that together we can bring hope for a cure.”
Sophomore Clara O’Shaughnessy, a Relay participant on team “Wonder Bread”, felt the event was a success. “It’s a lot of fun and the energy [was] really great,” said O’Shaughnessy. “Relay is important to me because a lot of my family has been affected by cancer, and cancer research is also something that is very important to my family, not only me. I do multiple events every year.”
The Cancer Cell Biology presentations, as well as the Luminaria ceremony, in which Relay participants remember loved ones who they have lost to cancer, served to show the serious side of Relay. “[We had] a very recent alumnus who is battling cancer, as well as a student whose father has been diagnosed for the second time, speak at the ceremony to show how the St. Mary’s community, just like everywhere else, has been touched by cancer.”