Sun. Jan 23rd, 2022

On April 26 and 27, West Chester University students took a stance in the fight against cancer by participating in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. The 24 hour event created a memorable atmosphere as it celebrated the strength of cancer survivors, for people to remember those who have passed away from the illness, and created a spirit of hope by raising money for advancements in cancer research. West Chester University’s Relay for Life was a collaborative effort between students involved with WCU’s Colleges Against Cancer program and a local chapter of the American Cancer Society. 61 teams of 8 – 15 students camped out at the South Campus Gym and participated by taking turns to run or walk around a track; each team was asked to keep one representative on the track for the entire duration of the event. According to relayforlife.org, participants were encouraged to collect monetary donations that help fund cancer research, early detection and preventative education, and other support services for cancer patients and survivors. Molly McGrath, current secretary of WCU’s Colleges Against Cancer chapter and president-elect of the organization for 2008-2009, was very pleased at the amount of effort student participants put into fundraising for Relay.

“Last year we went into the event having raised $28,000, but over the course of the 24 hours we were able to continue fundraising and our grand total was an incredible $40,000. The goal set for us by the ACS was $25,000 so we shocked everyone,” McGrath said.

The student Relay for Life groups had already raised $32,000 prior to the start of the event; they were sure to meet or exceed the ACS fundraising goals again this year. The WCU Relay for Life event contributed to a larger national fundraising effort by the American Cancer Society; it is estimated by the American Cancer Society that approximately $1.5 billion has been raised through Relay for Life since its start in 1986.

WCU’s Relay for Life was a fun-filled weekend for all involved. The event kicked-off with opening ceremonies, where each team that participated was introduced. Live music was provided by local bands at the event, and other activities that took place within the twenty-four hours included tie-dying, a scavenger hunt, board games, outdoor recreation, and bingo. Cancer survivors and caretakers were honored during a special Survivor’s Ceremony; Barb Gunselman, breast cancer survivor and local entrepreneur, addressed Relay participants with an inspiring speech during this time. A new addition to Relay for Life this year was a presentation entitled “Picture A Cure,” where an American Cancer Society member spoke and Relay for Life participants were encouraged to write down why they became involved with the event. The letters from Relay Participants would then be given to legislators as a means of advocating cancer research.

The highlight of the event took place on Saturday night during the Ceremony of Hope, perhaps the most poignant aspect of Relay for Life. As the WCU Gospel Choir performed and participants completed laps, the glow from luminarias decorated with names of those affected by cancer shone through the evening as a reminder of the fortitude of those who survived cancer and the lasting memories of those who passed away from the illness.

On Sunday afternoon, the event’s festivities came to a close with the Fight Back and Closing ceremonies and awards. The final total of money raised from WCU’s 2008 Relay for Life came to just under $70,000.

McGrath hopes that WCU students who participated in this year’s Relay for Life had a meaningful experience.

“Everyone is affected by cancer,” she said. “Relay For Life is a way for all of us to come together and find out what we can do to protect ourselves and those we love, we can also be there for each other through the fear and the struggles, we can come together to celebrate the lives of survivors, and remember the lives of those we’ve lost to this disease.” She also wanted participants to see the difference they were making in the fight against cancer by supporting Relay. However, McGrath stressed that the goal of Relay for Life was to spread hope.

“Hope is what keeps Relay going. Hope that one day we won’t have to Relay anymore, that one day no one will ever again have to hear the words, ‘You have cancer,'” McGrath said.

With the amount of support WCU’s Relay for Life has gained, McGrath hopes that the CAC will continue to grow into a well-recognized organization on campus.

“Next year we hope to have an even bigger presence on campus so that we can educate people about this disease and inspire them to join us in our fight to defeat it,” she said.

After its growth from a Relay for Life committee to an organization recognized by the American Cancer Society, WCU’s Colleges Against Colleges chapter will surely continue its effort in promoting this highly successful event.

McGrath hopes that one day we may find adequate research and treatment procedures so that Relay for Life may not be entirely necessary, but as the event’s slogan states, “There’s no end until we find a cure.”

Jen James is a first-year English major with a minor in music. She can be reached at JJ655874@wcupa.edu.

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