Since cancer is currently classified as the second leading cause of death in the United States and research has suffered delays and setbacks during the COVID-19 pandemic, the fight against cancer is more important than ever. Every year the American Cancer Societyor ACS, organizes its biggest event, the Relay for Lifein over 2,000 locations around the world, raising funds and awareness for cancer research, support and survival.
On March 25, Northeastern University’s Relay For Life was held in person for the first time since 2019. Although the ACS Northeastern Chapter on campus was still able to raise funds for the fight against cancer over the past two years, the return to an in-person event has been a relief and a joy for many.
“It was certainly very scary to plan this event because most students on campus now, unless they’re in fourth or fifth year, haven’t seen a relay in person,” said Jessica Richards, a third year in combined environmental and political studies. science major and executive director of ACS on campus. “They don’t know what Relay is, so we’re really thrilled that so much of the community has come forward to be part of such an important cause.”
The 12-hour event brought together hundreds of students from across campus and raised over $150,000 in support of the American Cancer Society. The participants, a mix of survivors, keepers and supporters, gathered at Matthews Arena on Friday night with genuine passion for their cause.
“More than anything, the change I feel this year is so much more exciting because we haven’t had an in-person event since 2019,” said Maeve Smart, a fifth-year health science major and the mission and advocacy event manager for ACS on campus.
Relay For Life is a community event that relies on donations from people in and around the university to financially support the mission of ACS. However, the heart of the event lies with the students.
While Relay For Life is supported by the American Cancer Society, the majority of the work for the event is done by ACS members on campus. The student members leading the event began preparation during the summer of 2021 and continued through the fall and spring semesters.
“Student leaders have done a phenomenal job of accomplishing every task possible to make this event such a phenomenal event,” said Sarah Bernhardt, student engagement specialist at Northeastern University’s Center for Student Involvement.
ACS members on campus recruited hundreds of donors, sponsors and speakers in the months leading up to Relay For Life. These participants came together to create more than 60 student-led teams, which together contributed to fundraising efforts, enabling ACS on Campus to reach its goal of $150,000.
Fundraising began months before Relay For Life, but the March 25 event marked the culmination of all the hard work and effort put in by the students.
“Just seeing all the students in the middle of the track really gave me chills, because the pandemic has been tough and cancer patients need us more than ever, so seeing students come out and collect so much money. money and supporting cancer patients means everything,” said Hilary Casillas, director of development for ACS Massachusetts.
Each student attending the relay has their own reason for walking. Some have lost family members to cancer, others are allies of the cause, and a few are even survivors themselves. However, they are all linked by the same mission: to raise funds and awareness for cancer support, survival and research.
“It’s a really powerful time to come together and celebrate cancer survivors and to have a moment to honor the people in our lives that we’ve lost to cancer,” said Smart, a survivor herself.
Relay For Life began with an opening ceremony and a “survivor lap,” in which cancer survivors walked around the arena while everyone else cheered them on. Then, an evening of celebration ensued, where attendees were able to honor loved ones lost to cancer and show their support in the fight against the disease.
Relay For Life has united the efforts of campus and community members to benefit the mission of the American Cancer Society. Thanks to the pledges of event attendees, despite the pandemic-induced obstacles leading up to Relay 2022, students at Northeastern University were able to pledge their financial and emotional support in the fight against cancer.
“We are really looking to bring the community together and raise funds to support the fight against cancer as well as celebrate all the hard work and fundraising that everyone has done throughout the year,” said said Richards. “We wouldn’t be able to achieve what we do without the support of everyone here.”