FSU’s first Relay for Life, which took place Sunday, May 1, raised $21,554 for the American Cancer Society. This exceeded the original goal of $20,000.
The event, which took place from 12:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., was held in the gym due to rain. Teams had tables set up with activities to raise money for cancer research, and participants walked around the gym for the event.
Along with walking, participants were throwing bean bags into boxes, tossing Frisbees into bins and dancing to music.
In addition to team activities, events such as musical chairs, “pie in the face race” and yoga occurred throughout the day. The Framingham State Dance Team, the a cappella group Framingham State Falsettos and magician Mike Charles also performed.
The event started with an opening lap for caregivers and survivors, with everyone clapping and cheering them on before joining in.
Thirty-one teams registered for the event. The team that raised the most money and also had the most members was Cure for Carolene.
Freshman Sammi Henderson created the team in honor of her mother, who died of lung cancer when she was 8 years old.
She said the Relay for Life “shows how supportive people are and that they understand how deeply cancer can affect people and that lifting them up through being supportive can help so much more than anything. When my mom had cancer, it wasn’t the medicine that helped her. It wasn’t the radiation that helped her. It was having hope and the support of her family that really helped her live a full year with cancer.”
Henderson added the American Cancer Society is an organization with a good cause and people donate because of how prevalent cancer is in people’s lives.
Cure for Carolene raised $2,635.90, and Henderson hopes to reach the group’s goal of $3,500 when donations close in August.
Next year, she said she hopes the event will be 24 hours long and can be held outside.
About her team’s success, Henderson said, “I think it shows a lot about my mom, because she instilled in me the power to be influential and inspiring. She gave me the ability to get people on board, and a lot of people also joined the team because they knew her. She was a very special person. … I’m glad I got involved.”
Beck Govoni from the Community Service Club said they decided to create a team because it correlates with their mission.
She said, “I like giving back and it’s an awesome sense of community.”
The lacrosse team held an activity during which participants tried to toss a ball using a lacrosse stick. For $1 participants got three chances and with $3 they got five, and if they won then they could choose from donuts, cookies or Gatorade.
Lindsay Nixon, a junior, said she chose to participate because one her best friends died in high school from cancer, adding everyone knows someone who has been affected by the disease.
The club Aspiring Health Professionals organized an activity at which participants could toss a ball into a bra to raise cancer awareness.
Senior Filipe Silveira said the Aspiring Health Professionals created a team because the disease affects a lot of people and they believed it was important to participate.
Sophomore Fallon Soye said the Relay for Life is something she feels strongly about. She added a lot of members joined the club because of knowing someone who was affected by cancer.
Cindy Nelson, a junior, said she is participating for her aunt and for the Green Team. “I thought it was really important that Green Team had a presence here because there are so many causes of cancer that are connected to environmental issues, especially with things like pollution and plastic and water contamination.”
Relay for Life Team Captain Ambassadors Amy Grimmett, a junior, and Kourtney Kacian, a senior, said the teams have been really interested in fundraising.
Kacian said, “It’s been pretty hectic because it’s the first time that we’ve ever done it here, so the big thing was trying to get people to find out about the event, which was kind of difficult. Some people don’t even know that it’s going on right now. So I think that will have to be a big thing they will have to focus on next year.”
She added her hometown has a Relay for Life event every year, so she always knew about the event. “I think it’s important for more people to know about it, so I think that it’s great that it’s here.”
Grimmett said her mother had her last cancer treatment two days before the Relay for Life, and that made her want to get involved.
Many of those in attendance said they came to support someone they know who had or has cancer.
Lauren Donnelly, a junior, said, “I’m participating for my family members who have been affected by cancer and those in general who have been affected.”
Sophomore Jake Nowlan said he joined his friend’s team. “My grandma’s a cancer survivor – she beat cancer two years ago.”
Hailey Small, a freshman and volunteer for the event, said, “I’m volunteering so I can help this event grow further and inspire far more interest in service as a whole through organizations such as Relay for Life.”
Freshman Kaitlyn Mott said she came to the event because a lot of people in her family had cancer. “It’s just a really important cause to me,” she added.
Performances and events
Mike Charles, an alumnus of the class of 2015, performed magic tricks at 8:30 p.m.
He had stage two lymphoma. In high school, his best friend died from the same cancer Charles had.
He said, “Seeing all this now, and having you guys here still showing your support to these people who are still going through it, is awesome.”
He did several magic tricks, including dropping a ring onto a chain necklace, which was one of the first magic tricks he did for his friend.
Using audience participation, Charles moved cards from one person to another without touching them. He asked students to pretend to toss an invisible deck of cards around the room. One student chose a card at random and said what the card was out loud. The student then pretended to put the card face-down into the invisible deck. Charles then produced a real deck of cards, and the one card which was face-down in the real deck was the same card that the student chose, eliciting excitement from the students.
The FSU Falsettos performed “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson and “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz.
Lillian Curley-Swannie, sophomore and member of FSU Falsettos, said she has participated in Relay for Life events before, and members of her family have had cancer.
“Seeing everyone here saying it’s their first relay is awesome. It’s such a good cause,” she added.
Later that evening, the Luminaria Ceremony was held
According to Jess Nardi, a senior and volunteer, the luminaria bags are intended to honor those who have been diagnosed with cancer. People could buy white plastic bags and decorate them in honor of a loved one who has or had cancer, and those who have passed away.
Hannah Odachowski, an alumna of the class of 2015, said the $10 per bag cost helped reach the organization’s goal of raising $20,000.
The luminaria bags were lined up around the gym with yellow glow sticks inside each bag, and everyone was given a purple glow stick. All the lights in the gym were then turned off. They cracked them and began walking around the gym in order of cancer survivors, caregivers, if they had a loved one who had cancer and if they are at the relay to show their support.
Everyone walked in silence in remembrance of cancer survivors, some stopping to take photos of or sit in front of the bags, with the only light coming from the glow sticks.
Jennifer Holden, a junior and an event lead, walked around the track with her mother, who was diagnosed with breast cancer, and her father. Her mother usually has to use a wheelchair to get around, and she said walking with her “was a feeling that one cannot simply express” and “it was a huge accomplishment for her.
“Seeing how happy she was pushing herself around in her wheelchair made me tear up because she doesn’t get the opportunity to always do something like that every day,” she added.
Holden said the event was “a very rewarding experience” and she was happy with how involved people were.
Maddie Alper, a junior and an event lead, said the Event Lead Team and volunteers have been planning the relay since last summer. She has been attending Relay for Life events at her home on Cape Cod with her dad, which is why she chose to get involved.
“Relay to me means complete and utter hope for the future, for the future of the survivors, for the future children in this world and for the future of cancer research to someday make this horrible disease disappear so the world doesn’t have to live in fear of this anymore,” Alper said.
She added she is “thrilled” with how it went and “was honestly shocked by how successful it was. We were definitely not expecting to reach our goal, and to be able to surpass it was unreal. … Since it was the first ever relay at FSU, I think we can only go up from here and have more awesome relays in the following years.”
Kathleen Reynolds, the American Cancer Society community manager, helped the Event Lead Team set up the Relay for Life.
She said she was inspired by the passion of FSU students. “I like to joke around that I would love to not have a job. The cure for cancer I believe is out there, and it takes a lot of hard work and a lot of people, like everyone here, so I hope they know the impact that they’ve had.”
[Editor’s Note: Shayna Yacyshyn is a member of The Gatepost editorial board.]