For 24 hours, students, survivors, caregivers and community members gathered at Palmer Field for MRelay, University’s annual Relay for Life.
Beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday and ending at 10 a.m. Sunday, a host of student organizations gathered to participate in the relay, which is one of hundreds held globally to raise awareness and funds for the American Cancer Society. To participate, each team has one member walking the track at any given time.
About 1,900 students registered for the event and 102 teams signed up. Many teams were composed of members of student organizations, Greek Life and Club Sports teams. MRelay leaders estimate that 3,000 to 5,000 people walked the event during the day.
This year’s event surpassed the goal of $315,000 to raise $316,041.08. MRelay will continue to accept donations through August. Last year’s MRelay raised about $312,000.
The relay is an opportunity for those affected by cancer to receive support and share their stories. The event includes a Luminaria Ceremony, which commemorates those who lost their battle with cancer by placing a lighted paper latern on the track in their honor
Business senior Kirby Jacobs, a member of the MRelay senior leadership team, said she most anticipated speaking in honor of her mother, who passed away last summer from cancer, during the ceremony.
“She was my hero, my everything,” Jacobs said. “I knew I would regret not speaking.”
Though Jacobs had no experience with Relay for Life before coming to the University, she became involved as a Team Captain during her freshman year. Her mother, who had been recently diagnosed with ovarian cancer, attended the 2011 MRelay and stayed with Jacobs overnight in the 30-degree weather.
Kinesiology senior Sara Knysh, executive director of MRelay, said she also participated in MRelay because of her family’s experiences with cancer. This year was Knysh’s 12th year being involved with Relay for Life.
The relay moved back to its usual location of Palmer Field on Hill Campus this year after taking place on Ferry Field in 2013. Knysh said the space at Palmer Field allows for more activities.
This year’s MRelay was Disney-themed: Participants checked in at Goofy’s Registration Tent and could continue through Hercules’ Hope Tunnel to Cinderella’s Stage. Mickey and Minnie Mouse appeared periodically throughout the day.
MRelay sponsors fundraisers throughout the year such as bar nights and restaurant events. For the past two years, MRelay has sponsored a fashion show with Rent the Runway, which offers rentals of designer dresses and accessories. This year, MRelay paired up with Ann Arbor restaurant guide Eat Blue. For the month of February, customers could choose to donate a portion of their bill to MRelay.
Student organizations also fundraised at the event by selling food or hosting activities. The relay this year benefited from the warm weather. In the case of heavy rain, thunder or lightning, the event would have moved inside the Central Campus Recreation Building.
LSA junior Chris Schaitkin, a member of the MRelay senior leadership team, said he would have enjoyed the event regardless of the weather conditions.
“My favorite thing every year is just being here as a participant,” Schaitkin said.