Early last semester, my friend Justin asked me if I was interested in being a part of the committee for Relay for Life of LSU. Justin and I went to high school together, and watched our friend Jessie fight leukemia for nearly two years before losing her battle. Relay for Life is all about honoring survivors, remembering those who have died, and raising money to continue fighting, so I said yes without hesitation!
After months of meetings and preparation, Friday night, April 27, was the night. We had over twenty teams registered, and they spent all day setting up. I was co-chair for the Survivorship committee, so I set up the booth with information, shirts for the survivors, and signs for virtual survivors. The virtual survivor program is probably my favorite – it allows people to walk in celebration of people who aren’t there. This is perfect for a college campus, since most students are far from home, but many have family members who are survivors. I designed a half-sheet of paper (think race bib style) that people could decorate and pin on to let others know who they were walking for.
Everything kicked off about 6pm, with the survivor lap. We had 7 survivors in attendance, so they got to make a lap around the track in celebration. I actually missed this part because I got stuck in some traffic when I went to pick up dinner, but from what I hear, it was great.
Our activities committee had lots of events planned for the night. Between ceremonies, they had movie trivia, coke chugs, scavenger hunts, a “Dude Looks Like a Lady” woman-less beauty pageant, and a rousing Hunger Games. This really helped keep people awake and alert and excited for what was to come next.
At 9pm, we had our Luminaria ceremony. Luminaria are paper bags that people purchase to decorate with names of people who have died from cancer, as well as survivors. We place candles in the bags and line the track with them, turn out all other lights, and walk silently in remembrance of those who are no longer with us. One of our committee members put together a great slideshow of pictures of those we remember, those we celebrate, and those currently fighting. She also sang “Let it Be,” which made the whole ceremony perfect. After she sang, we sent up lanterns. If you’ve ever seen the movie Tangled, think of the lantern scene. I didn’t know these existed in real life, but they’re pretty awesome.
After the Luminaria ceremony, I hopped over to the Lifeshare Blood Center bus to give blood. Thankfully, it had been long enough since my Nicaragua vaccines, so I was able to give.
The teams did fundraisers all night long, to raise funds for American Cancer Society. After totaling the funds from all the teams, our fundraising total was over $10,000! This was a lot more than last year, and it appears LSU’s Relay is really growing.
Relays generally go all night, but by 2:30, only the committee and two teams remained, so we decided to call it a night and pack up. I got in bed about 4am, but it was totally worth it! I really enjoyed being a part of Relay for Life at LSU this year. It was my first experience with Relay, and I can’t wait to help make it bigger and better for next year!
I was brought to tears several times during Survivor and Luminaria events. With an event like Relay, you get to hear so many stories of how cancer has touched people. I don’t know of anyone who hasn’t been touched by the disease in some way, and hopefully the money that we are raising will help more and more people beat cancer and have more birthdays, and someday even have a cure. I think it’s possible that my generation will see a cure, but since it there isn’t one yet, I will continue to Relay!
If you want to learn more about Relay, here is the link to the website. Also, if you’re an LSU student, there should be an article about Relay in Monday’s Reveille!