|SSU catches Relay for Life spirit
Celebrate. Remember. Fight Back. These are the three phrases coined by The American Cancer Society’s “Relay for Life.”
“The whole thing is to celebrate those who are cancer survivors, support those who are currently battling cancer and to really remember those who we have lost: celebrate, remember and fight back,” Team Captain Chair Hannah Zucherman said.
Sonoma State University hosted its third annual campus 24-hour Relay for Life from 3 p.m. April 21 to 3 p.m. April 22.
Relay for Life events cover a 24-hour period because cancer does not sleep.
One walks at all times
Zucherman said that it is a 24-hour event, but there is a misconception that participants walk for the whole 24 hours. In actuality, people have teams and one member from each team must be walking at all times.
When asked how she went about recruiting team members for the relay, Zucherman said, “A lot of times it kind of just comes with the term cancer, it resonates a lot with people. So, if you can kind of tug at those heart strings, and a lot of people know somebody; a parent, a grandparent, aunt, uncle, so that is why they want to get involved, because they have a personal connection.”
This year, the committee reached its goal of having 30 teams.
Among the teams were the SSU student newspaper The Sonoma Star, Greek life groups such as Alpha Epsilon Pi, Gamma Phi Beta and Lambda Theta Nu, as well as several different Freshman Interest Groups (FIG).
FIG represented the majority, ranging from Art to Business FIG. Online chair Eirynne Mayer said people sign up for FIG knowing that they will have to participate in some kind of community service project, and this year’s project happened to be Relay for Life.
“I find a lot of them are really excited but they also aren’t sure what it is yet, so I think this whole event is going to be a big learning experience, and I hope they come back after they see how much fun it is,” Mayer said.
Business FIG member Ronnie Freiermuth said, “Cancer kind of runs in the family a little bit, it is a good cause. I did it in my high school senior year, so it’s probably definitely something I would do again.”
Event Chair Michael Harris started the relay and spoke on his personal experience with cancer and how much events like relay mean to those who have survived.
He introduced Sandra Funtanellesa, a fellow cancer survivor to share her story.
One of the main points of her speech was even though the majority of her audience is fairly young, it is important to do things to prevent cancer, and if you happen to get cancer, the sooner it is detected the better your chances are for survival.
Relay participants had various ways to raise money and cancer awareness during the event, such as a sand bag toss put on by sisters of Gamma Phi Beta.
Gamma Phi Beta chips in
“It’s a philanthropic endeavor that has meant a lot for me throughout my life,” Gamma Phi Beta activity chair Brittany Haworth said. “My mom’s really involved with Relay and The American Cancer Society, so it is something that is really personal for me. So, when it was my chair position it just seemed like the perfect opportunity to get us involved and to start a team.”
Haworth said some of the ways they fundraised were by writing letters to loved ones and departments that some of the sisters belonged to. They also gave out scratchers similar to lottery tickets so people could scratch and win.
“That’s one of the great things about Relay, it is not picking a certain, particular cancer to support. Everyone knows someone who has been affected by cancer,” Haworth said.
Throughout the event, participants were encouraged to make luminaria bags, which are white paper bags filled with sand and lit with a candle and decorated in whatever way participants chose.
Honoring the victims
“A big part about luminaria is a lot of people think it is just about remembering those we have lost, but it is also honoring and celebrating the ones we have right here with us and showing them support, “ Mayer said. “I think the bags around the campsites that are like that are kind of the most powerful.”
According to the Relay for Life Web site, each luminaria bag is “personalized with the name, photo, message or drawing in memory or honor of a friend or loved one who has been affected by cancer. Each luminaria candle represents a person.”
The luminaria event happened at 8 p.m. when the sun set on that scorching afternoon. All participants were asked to take a somber walk around the track to commemorate those who are battling, have been lost, or have survived cancer.
In total, the event raised $5,400, the team that raised the most money being Art FIG followed by The Sonoma State Star and Hunting for a Cure.