Relay for Life: The Fight Against Cancer
Last weekend, I had the opportunity to participate in a worldwide fundraising event for the benefit of cancer research. Every year, millions of schools, organizations and communities come together for one night to fight against and raise awareness for this terrible disease. On April 18th, Northern Arizona University held a Relay for Life event at it's indoor track in the dome on campus. It started at 6pm and wouldn't end until 6am the next day. Needless to say, it was going to be a long night, but that didn't stop over one thousand participants from showing up.
I had been to a Relay for Life event before. When I was a freshman (only two years ago), I was attending Arizona State University and in a sorority. My role at that event wasn't exactly prestigious and I didn't know anyone personally who had cancer to be overly involved. I went anyway, mostly because it was mandatory, but also because I actually did care. I only reveal all of this now because I want to be able to accurately demonstrate that my role in Relay for Life has dramatically changed since then. My mom had skin cancer removed recently. My best friend's mom recently had her breast cancer removed. Cancer is slowly starting to affect my life, and even if it wasn't, I still think that I would step up by becoming more involved in this event than I had in the past -- for my friends, who have had to endure unimaginable things that cancer has done. I remember holding my friend while she cried because someone in her immediate family was affected by cancer. I remember countless people standing up and walking a lap in silence for their mothers, fathers, siblings, spouses, and grandparents who have either lost, won or are still fighting against cancer. It broke my heart.
My personal exposure with NAU's Relay for Life was unlike any experience I've had before. There were 133 teams that night, all with a different fundraising tactic. I spent the evening with the other members of Blue Key Honor Society and involved myself in our fundraising game. Since the theme of this year's Relay for Life was 'Around the World', we decided to mimic 'The Amazing Race'. If you're not familiar, which I wasn't, 'The Amazing Race' is a U.S. television series in which teams of two must decipher clues and overcome physical and mental challenges in order to hit all of the countries and win the grand prize. In our little rendition of the show, the majority of our members dressed up to represent different countries, such as Ireland, France, Germany, Mexico, Britain, and the good ol' US of A. Since I'm obsessed with Australia, I borrowed a kangaroo ‘onesie' from an Australian friend and wore it around the whole night alongside a good friend who dressed as "Crocodile Dundee." Each participant of our game was given a fact about an unknown country and then instructed to find the person dressed as the country they thought the fact belonged to. If they succeeded and obtained all of the countries stamps on their fake passports before anyone else, they won a $50 value gift basket. Some other clubs had games, such as card matching and real-life hungry hippos, while others sold food, such as candy, nachos, popcorn and more. There were even groups that had a more unique way of raising money: donate a sum of money to make your friends wear granny panties over their clothes and to get rid of them, they have to raise double your donation. Or, my personal favorite, donate $1 to force your friends to do push-ups while being yelled at by ROTC members. (I had to do this one in my costume.)
Despite the endless count of student-run booths, there were also key moments like the Survivor's Lap, the Luminaria Ceremony, and the Fight Back Ceremony -- to celebrate victory over cancer, to remember those we've lost to cancer, and to inspire others to take action against cancer. There was never a dull moment at NAU's Relay for Life event. Every moment was filled with life, laughter, love and unity. Overall, we managed to raise $84,655.42 for the American Cancer Society, towards the hope that we may one day live in a world where cancer isn't deadly.