With purple ribbons tied around campus and purple signs scattered around walkways, each detailing facts about the different types of cancer, the “Paint the Campus Purple” week-long event reminded UNC that the annual Relay for Life is right around the corner.
Relay for Life is one of the biggest fundraisers for the American Cancer Society. It is a night-long event at the UNC Campus Recreation Center that lasts from 6 p.m. on April 6 to 6 a.m. the following day. At Relay for Life, participants raise funds for the American Cancer Society and take laps around the track for the cause. The slogan for the event is “Cancer doesn’t sleep, so neither do we.”
The Relay for Life Kickoff was a two-hour registration event Wednesday evening at the University Center. At this time, people were encouraged to sign up for the all-nighter event with a discount. Registration typically costs $15, but it was discounted to $10 for people registering at the kickoff.
UNC biology major Cassie Brenner, who leads these events, is a cancer survivor.
“I came to this university four years ago, this is my senior year, and saw that we had a Relay for Life on campus,” Brenner said. “And I was like this is something I need to be involved with. I went to a cancer support group, so I have a lot of friends who lost their battle with cancer, I have friends who just finished their battle with cancer, so it’s always been something I’ve always been really passionate about.”
The kickoff, as well as encouraging people to register, also provided ways to fundraise and advocate for the community.
The goal for Relay for Life is for everyone to earn at least $100. Prizes are given for those who reach certain milestones towards that goal and beyond it. At the kickoff, buckets and jars for collecting money were available for purchase. Handmade ribbons for each type of cancer were free to those who attended the event.
The money raised by these events goes towards supporting patients and caregivers. This support comes in the form of lodging and rides for patients, empowerment workshops, one-on-one peer support and general navigation and information for those newly diagnosed.
Funds also go to research. UNC professor David Hydock of the sports and exercise science program is funded by ACS to research “the mechanisms behind cancer treatment related skeletal muscle weakness and fatigue, and how exercise and nutritional interventions play a part in battling this debilitating side effect.”
Erick Dovel, a junior finance major, shared his story about his mother, who is a breast cancer survivor and how he got involved with Relay for Life.
“My mother was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer, and an especially invasive, aggressive kind, a strain called Her2+. She was diagnosed on June 7, 2016, her birthday,” Dovel said. “A week later she took us to Sonic for shakes and broke the news. It was the same type of cancer that had taken our aunt five years prior in just a year. It was terrifying. I felt helpless but decided to do something and found out about Relay for Life on campus and immediately joined. My mom recovered in record time of 9 months after taking new heavy-duty chemotherapy, we called them ‘the big guns.’ We know firsthand that the new research is paying off.”
This year’s theme for the big all-nighter is Dr. Suess. The headlining quote from “The Lorax” summarizes the mission of this fundraiser: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
In the opening ceremony, the event starts with honoring cancer survivors by having the survivors take the first lap around the track. The luminarias, decorated white paper bags in dedication to those still battling cancer or those who have died, light the pathway. Bags can be purchased and decorated by the individuals, the committee there or online. The event ends with bagels and a closing ceremony recognizing those who raised the most for the cause.
Amber Osbourne, a senior human services major who lost her dad to cancer five years ago, hopes through this event that “someone else’s story would be different from ours.”
There are many activities and booths to keep participants awake for the full night. Monster, the energy drink company, sponsors the event and will be handing out complimentary drinks to attendees. An exciting event for UNC students is the “Pie Your Professor,” where participating professors subject themselves to getting a face full of pie for the cause.
According to Brenner, a favorite game to play is musical chairs scavenger hunt, where, when the music stops, the leader yells out a random item to go find, like floss, and the last player to retrieve their item loses. Other activities include Zumba and yoga. Pizza and coffee will also be available during the night.
Information on registration, the committee meeting schedule, and ways to donate and keep track of what the UNC community has raised, can be found at their website.
Relay For Life: http://main.acsevents.org/site/TR?pg=entry&fr_id=86837