Relay For Life Fosters Cancer Awareness and Celebrates Survivors

The event featured several musical performances. The Yorkies, pictured, sand at Relay for Life.
R.Prem/The Phillipian

The event featured several musical performances. The Yorkies, pictured, sang at Relay for Life.

Footsteps around the Case Memorial Cage added a rhythmic baseline to the sounds of laughter and conversation last Saturday night at Relay for Life. Pounding music lifted the spirits of relayers as the Andover community continued to walk numerous laps in the four-hour event to raise cancer awareness and celebrate survivors.

Andover’s Campuses Against Cancer club has organized Relay for Life for the past three years. Relay for Life, a worldwide event, is American Cancer Society’s largest fundraiser in the United States, according to their website. At Andover this year, a total of 203 participants collectively raised 28,465 dollars out of the 60,000 dollars goal, contributing to the 150,000 dollars raised by the school over the previous three years.

Relay for Life began with an opening ceremony and the Survivor Lap, where survivors of cancer walked a lap around the track. Participants trailed behind the survivors after the relay officially began.

“[It’s] something that I’ve done as a participant for each year that it’s happened, which I think is every year that I’ve been at Andover, but as cheesy as it sounds, I relay to find a cure,” said Bennett Sherr ’17.

Alexandra LeBaron ’20 said, “I thought that the event was so well-run, and it was very powerful to see everyone walking together in solidarity for a cause that they believe in.”

The organizers provided a photo booth for teams and participants to take pictures. Participants were also welcome to honor someone by writing the name of a friend or family member on paper bags. These were later filled with glow sticks during the Luminaria Ceremony, which also featured student stories on the effects of cancer in their personal lives. The speakers included Rowan Curley ’20, Kaitlin Hoang ’17, and Myioshi Williams ’17.

“My dad died from Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which is a type of cancer, when I was three years old, and my grandmother died in 2011 from breast cancer, so I just think that without going through those losses I would definitely be a different person. I think I’m stronger and I know how to fight for what I believe in more because of that,” said Curley.

Curley hopes that people realize the large spread of cancer and work together to solve and heal from its effects.

“I hope that people will understand that they’re not alone in this and that people everywhere, wherever you look, have been affected by cancer. I don’t think I’ve met one person who doesn’t have a friend or family member that has been affected by, or even died, from cancer. I think that people should understand that everyone is here and everyone is trying to fix this issue,” said Curley.

The event also incorporated musical performances by the Yorkies and Blake Campbell ’18, as well as dance performances featuring Alexa Goulas ’18 and Kiki Kozol ’18. Kiarah Hortance ’17 and Sabrina Appleby ’17 performed Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” heralding a lap of silence in the dark.

“I thought it was a beautiful and powerful event. Everyone was very emotional and it was so inspiring to walk around and see all the lights with the names of survivors and people who have been affected by cancer during the Luminaria Ceremony,” said LeBaron.

Alex Kruizenga ’17 and Emma Murphy ’17, Co-Presidents of Campuses Against Cancer, worked with other board members and their faculty advisor, Lisa Joel, Director of Enrollment Management, to plan the event. The club worked closely with Christina Barry from American Cancer Society, who helped make the relay possible.

“The board worked really hard to organize the event and seeing all of the participants come together, enjoy, and celebrate showed us all why we relay had why relay is so important in our community. Everyone coming together to expresses support for members of the community affected… us in an unforgettable and vital way,” said Murphy.

In the future, Kruizenga hopes that Andover’s Relay For Life will reach full community participation, as well as a significant increase of donations to help cancer research.

“I want to see a cure for cancer. I don’t want anyone have to ever hear the words, ‘You have cancer’ or anyone to go through actually having cancer, going through the treatments or going through supporting someone who does has cancer. [It] is really emotional for everyone involved, and so just taking off that emotional strain in terms of cancer research one day, I hope that there is a cure to cancer, every type of cancer,” said Kruizenga.