It’s that time of year again where cancer survivors and their families join together in celebration of defeating the disease, and remember those who have lost that battle.
Yes, it’s the annual Relay for Life, which is only about a week and a half away from noon until 6 a.m. on Saturday, April 20 to Sunday, April 21.
It will begin on the Greenway, and then following the luminaria ceremony at approximately 9 p.m., will move to the Marts gym where it will remain until 6 a.m. If any inclement weather should strike, the event will be relocated to the gym.
This year’s theme for Wilkes University is Childhood Dreams, which is part of the national collegiate Relay theme “Dream Big, Hope Big, Relay Big.” Teams are being inspired by what they wanted to be when they grew up, like firefighters, rock stars, brain surgeons and ballerinas.
Those who have participated in the Relay for Life know the basic rules, including that one person from each team should walk all night because “cancer never sleeps, so neither do we.” In addition, each participant is asked to pay a $10 minimum commitment fee to take part in the event, and is encouraged to fundraise as much as possible. But, Relay is about much more than that. Teams as a whole are encouraged to have a goal of $100 per person.
This year brings a bit of a change for Relay as well. Everyone is being asked to try and raise at least $50, which will be rewarded with complimentary snacks throughout the Relay if the person’s team raises a total that is averaged to over $50 per person. Every team is also encouraged to bring an on-site fundraiser for the day of Relay. Face painting, photo booths, balloon animals and many other things will be on sale, and home cooked food will be available.
“It is a community event that brings everyone together for one specific cause,” sophomore pre-pharmacy major Rebecca Gordon said.
Senior pharmacy major and Relay chair Bethany Sharpless said the relay itself is an advocacy event where people with shared interests and ideas come together.
Sharpless said the funding for the relay has two main purposes. First, it affects patients and families dealing with cancer. These funds also help make research possible.
That’s not all. Support programs within Luzerne County also get involved and lend a helping hand. One such program provided by the ACS is the Hope Lodge, which is a facility where families who have to receive treatment out of town are provided with food a place to sleep. There are other programs that are more for children, but Hope Lodge is open to anyone. These facilities are across the country.
Road to Recovery is another service available with the help of Relay funds. Here, free rides are given to to treatments so that the patient’s caregiver can stay at work and continue to have a more normal income and schedule.
This year, which is the seventh year of the Relay for Life at Wilkes, is also the year with the most teams and participants. To be more specific, there are 32 teams and 360 participants, and for a small college with only approximately 2,400 students, that is a lot more participants than other schools.
“We do really well for our size in comparison to other schools who are or have been in the same phase of Relay,” senior environmental engineering major Katie Cirone said.
Cirone and Sharpless agree that Wilkes is in the top of the field for a small school.
There have been several fundraising efforts going on for the Relay for Life, some of the most recent being the Prom Dress Sale and Cuts for Cancer.
For the Prom Dress Sale, which was something Cirone’s team was involved with, prom dress donations were collected from students and the community. This fundraiser reached out to high school students, but was basically for whoever was willing to give.
“We took anything and everything,” Cirone said.
The Prom Dress Sale, which was on March 16 in the SUB, altogether brought in more than $1,800, combined from $1,700 on the day of the event and more than $100 after going to a high school.
Supported by Jolie Beauty Academy, Cuts for Cancer, which was held from 3-7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 9, offered discounted haircuts through a hair drive. Students from the academy came in and did all the work for free. The drive, which accepted cash donations and donations of hair for wigs, resulted in more than $700 and 100 inches of hair.
“It takes at least six donations of hair to create a wig so these donations were truly appreciated,” Sharpless said.
The fundraising isn’t over yet, though. On April 19, some relay committee members will be going to an elementary school for a Relay Recess, a relay aimed at elementary students to teach them about healthy lifestyles. So far, this event has raised more than $1,000 and is continuing.
Another fundraiser that is yet to come will be at Friendly’s on April 18, which committee members are seeking help for. All you have to do for Friendly’s FUNraising, is bring the certificate and 20 percent of the proceeds will be donated to Wilkes Univeristy Relay for Life Funday. These fliers are available at the information desk in the SUB and also at the Relay t-shirt table from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. every day. t-shirts are $10 each.
These three committee members believe that taking part in the relay is just as much beneficial to those who come to support and celebrate with cancer survivors and families as the survivors and families themselves.
“It is a great event that brings people together and allows you to see how many different people are affected and see everyone fight back as a community,” Gordon said.
“I think it’s amazing to see the power of such a small group of people and what we can accomplish together,” Cirone said.
“You can participate as much or as little as you’d like, but every dollar and hour spent counts,” Sharpless said. “Even if you don’t register, stop by and support other students and their fundraising.”
Anyone interested in participating can register up until the day of the relay. Contact Sharpless at [email protected] for questions or more information.