Though there wasn’t a carnival this weekend at Palmer Field, it certainly looked that way.
For 24 hours, the University’s annual Relay for Life event united thousands of students, faculty and staff for the common cause of defeating cancer. This year’s Relay funding surpassed last year’s record of $340,000 with more than $365,217 raised by Sunday’s 10 a.m. conclusion ceremony. This year’s total is expected to increase further because the collection of money was disrupted due to thunderstorms at 5 a.m. yesterday.
Relay for Life strives to fund cancer research and support services that the American Cancer Society oversees. Relays are the main fundraising vehicle for the ACS, and it is estimated that more than 4 million Americans have taken part in Relay events since its inception in 1986. According to the Relay website, more than $3 billion has been raised for the ACS since that time.
After the event, LSA senior Laura Flusty, co-executive director of Relay for Life, wrote in a statement to The Michigan Daily that despite the disruption in fundraising collection, the organizers still considered the event a success.
“Though the weather was not ideal towards the end, we still were able to make the most out of the event with a large attendance, and even larger fundraising total,” Flusty wrote. “I am truly impressed by the passion and enthusiasm that students from all over campus showed on Palmer Field.”
Public Policy junior Sam Lewis, co-executive director of the University’s Relay for Life, said the organization registered 2,599 participants for this year’s Relay, but hundreds, if not thousands, of people visited Palmer Field throughout the course of the day to support the cause.
One of the highlights of Relay events across the nation is the Luminaria Ceremony, which commemorates those who have lost their battle with cancer. At about 9 p.m., luminaries lit the way for runners circling the track and student speakers shared personal stories to the crowd gathered in the middle of Palmer Field.
LSA junior Holly Hein, a Michigan soccer player currently battling thyroid cancer, told the crowd that the most important part of her fight with cancer has been the support she’s received from her teammates and family. Hein was not able to play last year because of her treatment.
“They didn’t know (I had cancer) at the time, but they were my rock, and just being able to be with them and to play meant everything to me,” Hein said. “I don’t know how I would react if one of my teammates told me they had cancer, but (when I told them) they were so caring and concerned and compassionate … it was unbelievable.”
At the end of the ceremony, musical performances by students provided participants with time to reflect on their own experiences with cancer and remember fallen loved ones. The Luminaria Ceremony concluded with a silent lap around the track by all participants.
For the remaining 23 hours, Relay hosted performances from numerous student groups — from a cappella singing to Scottish dancing — food from local sponsors and even massages.
Additionally, there was a “Survivor Ceremony” to honor those that have beaten cancer and a brief closing ceremony at 10 a.m. yesterday, where the organizers announced the fundraising total.
Though unified for one cause, Relay brought together a variety of typically unrelated student organizations. LSA junior Sara Haynes, a member of the University’s Pre-Med Club, said many of the group’s participants were eager to take part in an event that would be relevant to their future careers.
“As future doctors, we wanted to take part, give back and help support the cause,” Haynes said.
The Pre-Med Club raised $2,000 before Saturday and sold bracelets at the event, in which buyers accrued a bead for each lap taken on the track, to help raise additional money for ACS.
Individually, Phi Gamma Delta raised the most of any organization with about $43,000, followed closely by the Chi Omega/Psi Upsilon team with $42,000.