FSU’s second annual Relay for Life raises over $8,000

[Allie Gath]

FSU’s Relay for Life, held Sunday, April 23, raised $8,549.40 for the American Cancer Society.

This is FSU’s second year hosting a Relay for Life event. Last year, the event raised $21,554.

Due to last year’s high turnout, this year’s Relay for Life event had a fundraising goal of $25,000. While this goal was not met by the end of the event, teams and volunteers can still fundraise for this particular Relay until Aug. 31.

Relay for Life is the “signature fundraiser” for the American Cancer Society, according to the organization’s website. Participants create a team and spend the duration of the event walking around the track to “signify that cancer never sleeps,” said the website. Teams fundraise in the time leading up to the event and during the event.

More than 5,000 Relay events are held in over 20 countries each year, according to the American Cancer Society.

FSU’s Relay, which ran from 12 to 9 p.m., was held in the gym. Team tables were arranged around an activity area in the center and Relay participants walked the perimeter of the gym.

In addition to traditional lawn games, teams participated in Zumba, minute-to-win-it and themed laps around track. FSU’s competitive dance team, Fusion, also performed.

The event began with a lap for survivors and caregivers, while the crowd cheered them on. After the first lap, the other participants joined in.

Eighteen teams were registered for the event. Cure for Carolene was the largest team with 15 members. The team raised $1,750, the most of all registered teams.

Sophomore Sammi Henderson, team leader and Relay volunteer, said, “My mom passed away from lung cancer when I was 8 years old, so that’s why I got involved in the first place. It’s one of my favorite causes, so I wanted other students to be as involved as I was and realize how much of an impact they can have.”

Punksters, a team led by senior Rebecca Green, raised $1,575 and had 13 registered members.

The unique team name came from a family nickname, said Green. She and her siblings affectionately call their mother, Natalie Dow, Punkie. Dow, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015, walked in the opening survivor lap and with the rest of the team during the event.

“I find it a little scary to put the survivor shirt on, you know, because it’s only been a year and a half, almost two years,” said Dow.

The Punksters fundraised during the event by selling Relay-themed goodie bags and holding a competition in which people could guess the number of gummy bears in a jar to win a prize.

Another team, Susan’s Sunflower Brigade, walked in honor of Team Leader Ines Stafford’s cousin, Susan, who died of cancer in September at the age of 46. Susan was an FSU alumna.

The team dressed in green tutus and decorated themselves with sunflowers, Susan’s favorite flower. They fundraised by holding a raffle for a finals week survival kit.

A variety of on-campus clubs created teams for the event, including The Hilltop Players, HerCampus and the Wildlife Club.

Lori Holden, mother of FSU senior Jennifer Holden, is a breast cancer survivor who has participated in many Relays, including the one FSU hosted last year.

She said, “To me, it is a joy to come out and be a part of this group. My daughter asked me if I wanted to do it and I said, ‘Of course. Are you kidding?’”

Lori Holden is co-captain of her own Relay team, which participates in the Greater Gardner Relay for Life each June.

“I’ll go anywhere where there’s a Relay, because I’m a survivor and everyone out here is a survivor or some family member is,” Lori Holden said.   

Amy Grimmett, the FSU Relay for Life recruitment chair, volunteered because her mother is a cancer survivor. “I think this is a really beautiful event. I think it’s more than just a walk to raise money, I think it really bring people together and you get to have fun,” she said.

Relay volunteer Shannon Fitzgerald said she volunteered and walked in honor of her mother’s 25th anniversary of being cancer free.

Kaylee Brazell, FSU Relay for Life logistics chair and FSU Fights Back team leader, said she wants to be a family nurse practitioner who works with cancer patients. “I think I just knew a lot of people who also dealt with cancer, and I felt like I wanted to do something with it,” she said.

Throughout the day, Relay volunteers sold white paper luminaria bags for $10 each. People decorated the bags in honor of those who have had cancer, and those who have died. The proceeds from bag sales contributed to the fundraising total at the end of the night.

In the evening, the decorated bags were placed along the perimeter of the gym with glow sticks inside. The lights were turned off and participants gathered in the center of the gym. Everyone was given a glow stick and asked to be silent in respect for the gravity of the moment.

From a stage lit with the words “Hope,” “Relay” and “Cure.” event leaders explained the luminaria ceremony was a time to grieve those lost and reflect on how the disease has touched each participant personally.

Grimmett said, “Some of you may see this ceremony as one night, one memory in a bunch of special memories, but remember – every single thing that you do matters. You have the power to change the world. Your presence tonight in support of the American Cancer Society is changing the world.”

Following the speeches, Jennifer Holden, FSU Relay fundraising chair, read a list of what inspired Relay participants to walk. Participants were encouraged to crack their glow sticks when they heard their reason.

All Relay attendees then completed a silent lap in honor and remembrance of those affected by cancer, the gym lit only by the glow sticks in their hands and in the luminaria bags.

Lori Holden said she’s excited to see more people coming out each year to show support for cancer survivors. “This is wonderful to have this for us here. It’s going to grow – it’s going to grow big.”

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