Relay for Life Encourages Cancer Awareness and Celebrates Survivors

The sight of three friends in a silent embrace stood out even amid the energy and music pulsating throughout the Case Memorial Cage during last Saturday’s Relay for Life.

Relay for Life is a national event that aims to raise awareness and funds to support cancer research. The event usually lasts for 24 hours and is hosted by schools and organizations all over the country. Andover’s abridged four-hour version of Relay for Life is organized and hosted by the club Campuses Against Cancer, and its donations are given to the American Cancer Society. The event raised 54,024 dollars. The coordinators of the event hoped to improve campus-wide attendance and to match last year’s overall donation of nearly 70,000 dollars.

“We increased in participation, which was one of our main goals. We wanted the community here to be able to experience the event and show us why they want to support the fight against this disease,” said Kyle Kingston ’16, President of Campuses Against Cancer.

Following the Relay’s tradition, the night began with an opening ceremony followed by the Survivor’s Lap, a lap taken only by those who have survived the disease. Afterwards, teams of students and faculty members took to the track to begin a march to raise money for the American Cancer Society. The event featured dance performances by Sara Luzuriaga ’16, Lizzie McGonagle ’16, Alexa Goulas ’18, and Kiki Kozol ’18, as well as music performances by The Yorkies and Azure.

The continual marching of students was broken only once during the night as the lights were turned off and students gathered in the center of the track for the Luminaria Ceremony. Silence fell over the Cage as Alex Kruizenga ’18 and Luzuriaga went to the stage to share the impact of cancer on their lives. Sam Hawley ’16 concluded the ceremony with the song “Follow the Sun” by Xavier Rudd, and students were then asked to do a single lap in absolute silence.

“Every year I’ve done the Relay, the community has shown me something different and better than before; the spirit of remembrance and love shone through this year. We had a particularly moving night with deeply impactful speakers as well as an energy from all our participants that could not be duplicated,” wrote Mihika Sridhar ’16, Senior Board Member of Campuses Against Cancer, in an email to The Phillipian.

In addition to the Relay for Life, Campuses Against Cancer is responsible for other events and dialogue on campus.

Kingston said, “We basically foster discussion around cancer and the impact it can have on a community and an individual. We often screen movies – for example, we screened ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ once. We sometimes hold bake sales to gather money to donate to various charities. It’s been a crazy year so this year we focused solely on the relay which happens every year during Non Sibi Weekend. Most of our efforts are put towards the Relay for Life.”

Like many of the events’ participants, Kingston has an understanding of the effects of the disease, and hopes that the funds raised by students will help the fight against cancer.

“I walk for countless family members, especially my cousin who’s here tonight, who’s a survivor, as well as her dad, who’s currently still battling. I also walk because cancer is a terrible disease… There’s no other way to put it. I don’t ever want another individual to hear the words ‘you have cancer,’ or ‘your relative or your loved one has cancer.’ So I walk to end this disease once and for all,” said Kingston.

Payton Jancsy ’16, a Senior Board Member of Campuses Against Cancer, said, “One of my really good family friends, Cecile, was diagnosed with breast cancer a few years ago… The whole family came together to support her. I’ve been impacted by cancer in that way, and lots of people have been impacted by cancer in numerous ways so any way I could help and try and find a cure is definitely something that I want to do.”

Campus Against Cancer members are already looking towards next year’s relay and are hoping to continue to expand the event and its impact on campus.

“To those unsure of attending the Relay, I would just say that you missed out on one of the best nights of the year,” said Sridhar. “This event is one I truly love because it brings people from all corners of campus together for a common cause. Every year, I feel privileged to have been a part of it.”