I arrived at Munn Ice Arena at midnight to find students giving up their Saturday night in the name of charity. From 11 a.m. April 9 to 11 a.m. April 10, students walked around the arena to raise money for cancer research.
[relay1] Teams, usually of 8-10 people, collected donations for the American Cancer Society (ACS). During the 24-hour walk-a-thon that culminates Relay for Life, someone from each team must be walking at all times. “The idea is, since cancer never sleeps, we take one day out of the year to honor those who have battled the disease,” Kate Follett, the community development director for the ACS, said. Follett is the staff partner for MSU’s Relay for Life, but the event is completely student-run.
Teams are sponsored by organizations such as the MSU Curling Club, Golden Key International Honor Society, dormitories or anyone else who wants to participate. Steve Black is the captain for a group called Team Underpants. “I knew people that wanted to do it, but I knew that no one would take initiative and lead it,” Black said about why he formed the team. Team Underpants raised $1,300 by midnight. Most of the money was from donations, but teams also fundraise at the event. Of the $1,300, about $42 came from cupcake sales at Munn. Other team fundraisers included selling pop, chili dogs, massages, cancer awareness ribbons, plants, renting games and playing Dance Dance Revolution.
[relay2] But Relay is about more than making money, it’s also about raising cancer awareness, Follett said. Signs around the ice rink promote healthy lifestyles and provide facts about cancer. Follett said cancer used to be thought of as an old person’s disease, but it now affects the lives of many students. Kendra Viglianti, education junior, agrees. “It’s important because so many people are affected,” she said. “I wanted to help people and donate my time.”
Relay for Life also has personal ties for some students, such as social relations senior Sarah Blitz. “My mom is a cancer survivor of 11 years, and with her help I was able to do well,” said Blitz, who raised $945 in donations. Blitz raised the fourth-highest amount among the weekend’s Relay for Life participants. She sent out personalized letters and e-mails to family and friends, as well as passing the message along by word of mouth to raise the money. “I believe that people that donated overall donated because they saw the hope that ACS represents,” Blitz said.
Relay for Life and the American Cancer Society are about bringing hope to the fight against cancer. The Relay sells luminaries for people to decorate to honor their loved ones who have battled cancer. There is a luminary-lighting ceremony where all of the bags are lit, as well as bags spelling out the word “hope.” A lap is reserved for cancer survivors, and a silent lap is walked in memory of those who have lost the battle with cancer.
[relaypq] The opportunity to honor people while helping a good cause is a driving force for student participation, especially since most students know someone who has faced the disease. “My life has been touched personally by cancer, and I’m here to support the cause,” nursing junior Pamela Tokarski said.
Jenna Delaney, the president of Campus Civitan, appreciates students working together. Campus Civitan is a community service organization and Relay for Life is their final event of the year. “Relay for Life is important because it brings many different young people together for a good cause,” Delaney said.
Students hunkered down for the long haul as I left Munn at 2 a.m. Piles of blankets, pillows and mattresses made up the team stations as students talked; played cards, broomball and Nintendo; did homework or made vain attempts at sleeping. After participants made it through the night, they could leave Sunday morning knowing they spent a Saturday night doing something worthwhile that can potentially help cancer patients enjoy many more weekends to come.

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