Relay for Life to bring campus community together to fight back against cancer April 16

Relay For LifeThis year, the campus community will come together once again for Relay for Life Saturday, April 16, at 11:30 a.m. at the Bill Sudeck Track at the North Residential Village. This year’s event will be 15 hours—down from last year’s 18—and will conclude at 3 a.m. Sunday, April 17.

The event’s co-directors, juniors Heidi Schmidt and Dana Williams, consider the community atmosphere a hallmark of the event.

“I think it is important to hold an event like this on campus because, while a small group of individuals can make a difference, when a whole community comes together, the impact can be so much greater,” Schmidt, a biomedical engineering major, said.

The event, which is aimed at raising awareness of cancer and money for research, centers around three themes: celebrate, remember and fight back.

This year, Relay for Life organizers set a goal of $68,000. As of Wednesday morning, they had raised more than $35,000, with 520 people registered to participate on 62 teams.

“Relay For Life specifically is a really great event on our campus because it is tons of fun and we have the opportunity to directly impact cancer research that is happening right here on our campus and across the street,” Williams, who majors in sociology and psychology, said.

While the event is full of performances by student organizations, games and other activities, it’s the luminaria ceremony that many participants look forward to most, including both Schmidt and Williams.

The ceremony involves placing paper bags with votive candles around the track in honor of loved ones who are fighting or have been lost to cancer.

“It’s the most serious section of the event, but I think it’s vital to what Relay For Life is because we take one hour to really reflect on why it is we are all here,” Williams said. “Almost everyone has been affected by cancer to some degree, and it is a time to honor and support those who have or currently are battling this disease. It is such a powerful time to find love and support within our community and for all of the survivors who attend our event.”

students walk around the track at Relay for Life 2015Williams first was affected by cancer when she was in grade school and one of her cousins died of cancer. While she didn’t understand it at the time, as she got older, she came in contact with others who had cancer.

“I had started to notice that cancer has no age, gender or race, and my work with the American Cancer Society was an outlet for me to advocate for all cancer patients, especially those who really need help affording treatment or just need some extra love and encouragement during this time in their lives,” she said.

Those who would like to participate in this year’s event can register and donate online at

“I would encourage everyone and anyone to get involved with Relay For Life because it has been by far the most amazing college experience I have had,” Schmidt said. “I have learned so much and met so many amazing people with as deep of a passion for finding a cure as I do.”