The Case Memorial Cage erupted in applause and shouts as students lined the indoor track and cheered for the four cancer survivors who walked the first lap – the Survivors Lap – of Relay for Life.
A worldwide event that takes place in nearly 5,200 communities and 20 countries, Relay for Life is a 24 hour walk that raises awareness and funds to support cancer research and treatment. Andover’s Campuses Against Cancer club hosted a shortened, four hour Relay for Life this past weekend – the school’s second annual Relay for Life. Hundreds of students, faculty and staff members participated and donated money. All of the donations will be given to the American Cancer Society.
“The American Cancer Society uses the proceeds to fund cancer research. I think donating to [the American Cancer Society] at events like Relay for Life is a great way to fundraise and raise awareness, as well as to bring a community together to fight a common foe,” wrote Adrienne Allen ’16, board member of Campuses Against Cancer, in an email to The Phillipian.
The Luminaria Ceremony midway through the night was a somber break in the upbeat event. Illuminated by the faint glow of paper bag lanterns lining the indoor track, participants walked around the track in silence. Each bag had the name of a participant’s loved one written on it to honor those who have fought cancer.
Wei Han Lim ’15, a board member of Campuses Against Cancer, said, “[The most powerful part of the Relay] had to be the Luminaria Ceremony, because it drives home the point that everyone is being affected by cancer in some way. It’s also just a moment to commemorate the lives of everyone who’s gone through cancer, who’s passed away or who’s fighting or who’s survived. It’s a really touching moment for the entire community to come together for this cause.”
In addition to the moving Luminaria Ceremony, David Benedict ’15 and Vimala Mohammed, Administrative Assistant to the Dean of Students, shared their personal stories of battling cancer. In her speech, Mohammed announced that a week prior, she had received the final confirmation that she was completely cancer free.
Kyle Kingston ’16, President of Campuses Against Cancer, said, “I think it’s incredibly beneficial that our community was able to hear those firsthand accounts, especially the experience from a current student. I don’t think there’s anything more powerful than a personal story to be able to learn from.”
To help energize walkers during the four hour event, the Yorkies, Azure and Bianca Navarro-Bowman ’15 performed. The event also featured a photo booth, a variety of food and a wall dedicated to signs that displayed reasons why participants were walking. Navarro-Bowman sang Josh Groban’s “You Raise Me Up,” accompanied by Julia Zell ’15 on the piano, during the silent laps that followed the Luminaria Ceremony.
Navarro-Bowman said, “I was asked by [Lisa Joel, Assistant Dean of Admissions and Faculty Advisor to Campuses Against Cancer] to sing at the Relay for Life, and I was completely honored. It meant a lot to me because both my mom and my grandfather had cancer. [‘You Raise Me Up’] is beautiful, well-known and really uplifting. It was to honor all the people in my family and in everyone else’s families who have been affected by cancer.”
After the Luminaria Ceremony, Azure performed a mashup of Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours,” the classic tune “Somewhere over the Rainbow,” Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” and “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong.
Emma Chatson ’18, a member of Azure, said, “Relay for Life is really sensitive to a lot of people including myself… I think the songs we sang were really uplifting and happy in these circumstances. I especially think ‘What a Wonderful World’ reminds ourselves that there is a good meaning to life and something worth living for.”
Editor’s Note: Kyle Kingston ’16 is a Copy Editor for The Phillipian.