Photo from Instagram
Cancer doesn’t stop for COVID-19, and neither does Quinnipiac University’s Relay for Life.
Despite the adverse, socially distant conditions imposed by the virus, Relay for Life upheld tradition by making the annual event virtual. From Monday, Sept. 28, to Saturday, Oct. 3, the Quinnipiac community united remotely to raise money for the American Cancer Society.
Relay for Life was founded in May 1985, when Dr. Gordon Klatt walked and ran around the University of Puget Sound track in Tacoma, Washington, for 24 hours in order to raise money for the American Cancer Society. Now, Relay for Life is an event that people participate in worldwide.
There are many teams registered under Quinnipiac, and in total, as of Wednesday, Sept. 30, they have raised nearly $15,000. The Relay for Life executive board has raised the most so far, contributing over $6,000 to the cause.
“Relay for Life holds a very special place in my heart as I do this for my fourth and final year here at Quinnipiac,” said Caylee Carmody, head co-chair of Relay for Life at Quinnipiac and a senior biomedical sciences major. “I started working with this student organization as a volunteer my freshman year and became more involved each year. I now have the privilege to lead this team as one of the head co-chairs for my senior year.”
The organization’s larger mission is “to raise funds to improve cancer survival, decrease the incidence of cancer and improve the quality of life for cancer patients and their caretakers,” but for many participants, the significance is much more personal. Many fundraise for a loved one battling cancer, while others relay in remembrance of someone they lost to the disease.
“I have been really passionate about this cause due to the fact that my mother is a four-year cancer survivor and my grandma passed away from cancer in the fall of 2017,” Carmody said. “Relay for Life holds a great significance to the Quinnipiac community because there are many people in the same position I’m in. It’s hard to walk this campus without knowing someone who has been affected by cancer somehow, some way, at some point in their life.”
There is typically one big event on the quad that marks the culmination of the Relay for Life organization’s hard work, but due to COVID-19, that couldn’t happen. Instead, the event was stretched over a week, taking place primarily on social media. Each day had a different dedication, and like usual, the week begins and concludes with opening and closing celebrations.
“Monday was our opening ceremony day, Tuesday was survivor day, Wednesday was caregiver day, Thursday was guest speaker day, Friday was luminaria day, and Saturday was our active and closing ceremony day,” Carmody said. “We made videos to keep with our traditions of opening ceremony, made videos to honor survivors and caregivers, guest speakers submitted videos with their inspirational messages, luminaria was carried out over our social media pages, and people could send us their fitness activity to close out the week.”
Modified fundraisers were also held around campus leading up to the week. Participants were able to add to the “survivor wall,” create care packages for cancer patients, and even tie-dye t-shirts and face masks. One of the most important projects was decorating luminaria bags to share a reason for relaying. Carmody shared that the luminaria is her favorite part of Relay for Life.
“Remembering why you work so hard to put events together or raise so much money is so important, and that’s what luminaria does for people,” Carmody said. “Each bag tells a story of a loved one, and I love when people share stories with us because they’re often very relatable. Cancer can be a very sensitive subject to talk about, but with luminaria you don’t have to talk to learn about another person’s story.”
Participants can rest assured that their donations and dedications to the cause are significant. According to their website, over $50 million was raised by more than 484,000 participants globally for Relay for Life in 2019. Additionally, over $417 million of total earnings raised since 1985 has been put toward potential lifesaving cancer research grants, as of August 2019.
If you want to see the events and projects that Quinnipiac’s Relay for Life has completed as well as the impact it continues to make on cancer patients, survivors, caregivers, and those who have passed of the disease, follow @qurelayforlife on Instagram and Twitter and like Quinnipiac Relay for Life on Facebook.
“Relay for Life of Quinnipiac brings everyone together to show they’re not alone in this fight and to show how we can have power over this deadly disease,” Carmody said. “This week wasn’t what we originally planned for when we started back in February, but it’s certainly something to be proud of.”