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Relay for Life raises money and spirits to conquer cancer

The Brandeis community’s Relay for Life raised over $50,000 for the American Cancer Society this year. Starting Saturday night, March 28 and going into Sunday morning, students, parents, faculty and other supporters came to Gosman to honor their loved ones and raise money to fight cancer. The 12-hour event brought together a number of sports teams, Greek organizations and clubs in an effort to raise money. More than 600 students participated in this year’s Relay for Life, making it an inspiring and powerful event that brought the community together.

Summer Koop ’16, ceremonies chair, has been involved in Relay for Life since she was a child. “For me, the goal of Relay for Life is to celebrate those who have won the fight against cancer or are currently fighting cancer and their caregivers; remember those who we’ve lost to cancer; and fight back through education, research, advocacy and services for cancer patients,” Koop said.

After the opening ceremony, at which Senior Vice President for Students and Enrollment Andrew Flagel spoke, the first lap began. This lap was dedicated to cancer survivors, who walked around the track and were met halfway by caregivers who finished the lap with them. As they walked, the rest of the participants cheered them on. Everyone was invited onto the track for the second lap to begin their portion of the relay.

One of the most powerful events at Relay for Life was the Luminaria Ceremony. Before the ceremony began, white paper bags honoring loved ones were set up, illuminated by glow sticks lining the track. On the back bleachers, these glowing memorials spelled out the word “hope.”

Participants watched a slideshow of those lost to cancer and those fighting it now while the a cappella group Rather Be Giraffes sang in the background. When the slideshow ended, people were given their own glow sticks and invited up to a giant, white paper bag. The event’s organizers told them to crack and light the glow sticks, and throw them into the bag when a statement announced by an organizer applied to them. The bag began to fill with light as visibly emotional students threw in their glow sticks honoring mothers, fathers, siblings, friends and other loved ones.

Throughout the ceremony, friends and family embraced crying students, creating an atmosphere of support, remembrance and hope. It demonstrated how members of the Brandeis community’s lives have been affected by cancer. “It’s so heartwarming to see everyone hugging each other, holding hands and getting each other through this very difficult and powerful portion of Relay,” participant Hannah Brooks ’16 said. At the end of the ceremony, everyone walked a silent lap around the track, honoring those they had lost to cancer and remembering those who are fighting cancer today.

Throughout Relay, participating teams raised money through a variety of fun activities and sales. The fencing team offered the opportunity to try fencing, asking a donation of $1 to play. Other groups sold cupcakes, smoothies and bracelets. While some team members played these games, others walked around the track, with at least one team member always walking.

One of the many student groups who performed, Kaos Kids, energized the crowd by playing fun dance songs like the “Cha Cha Slide.” Brooks, the executive director of Kaos Kids, spoke about Relay’s importance. “I’ve seen so many people near and dear to me suffer and it’s truly awful. No one should have to go through that pain,” Brooks explained. “We want to fight for more birthdays, and Relay for Life gives us that opportunity.”

Koop believes that this year’s Relay for Life was especially successful, in part because of the fundraising efforts that went on before the event. This fundraising included a bar night, bench press competition and a fudge sale. The committee that organized Relay for Life, Koop said, faced few challenges in coordinating the event, though it required a huge amount of effort. This effort paid off in the end, inspiring many students to participate and donate money to the cause. “Throughout the entire night you could feel the overwhelming excitement and commitment of the Brandeis community to finish the fight against cancer,” Koop said about the event.

Flagel offered his feelings on Relay for Life in an email to The Brandeis Hoot. “It is empowering to be fighting back together against this, both as a community and with others across the country and around the world who participate in Relay. The energy and mutual support I see among our students is inspiring, and I am glad to see the growth in staff participation,” Flagel wrote. He expressed a desire for Brandeis’ Relay for Life to involve the community even more in the coming years.

Flagel congratulated those who worked to make this year’s Relay for Life so successful, saying, “It is through the perseverance and leadership of our students that the Brandeis Relay for Life has flourished.”

The hard work of students, staff and other members of the Brandeis community was evident at the event. Relay for Life was a touching and emotional reminder of the power of cancer and the even greater power of the Brandeis community.

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