Happening This Weekend: Relay For Life
This Saturday, April 23, the American Cancer Society’s annual Relay for Life fundraiser is taking place in the Carrier Dome to raise money for cancer research. The twelve hour, overnight event symbolizes the relentlessness of fighting cancer, according to Syracuse University/SUNY ESF Relay for Life chairs Tommy Mastin and Katt Miller.
“It’s supposed to simulate what it’s like to be with cancer because you’re never done fighting,” Mastin said.
The rules are simple: each team has to have a member walking or running on the track in the Dome at all times, from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. Every group can personalize its strategy, deciding which members will walk or run and for how long.
Although it seems like a tough all-nighter to pull, Mastin and Miller say there are various activities to keep participants engaged the whole time, including performances by student dance and music groups, a jousting arena, opportunities to get your hair cut to donate, and lots of food.
This will be Mastin’s fourth year at SU’s Relay for Life, and he said the night in its entirety is a unique experience that can’t be put into words because of its powerful impact.
“You experience every single emotion humanly possible,” Mastin said. “You’re gonna have highs, you’re gonna have lows. We have an hour long ceremony, which is called our Luminaria Ceremony, where we have people crying, we have people laughing, we have people remembering, we have people…[feeling] everything.”
These waves of emotion—going from an energetic session of Zumba to a solemn stretch of walking—are important according to Miller, who started volunteering for Relay for Life when she was nine years old and now does it for a friend battling ocular melanoma. She said the experience helps her celebrate survivors of cancer and empathize with those suffering.
"I still don’t even think I have an inkling of what [my friend] goes through everyday,” Miller said. “He’s got a wife, he’s got two kids, and still manages to wake up in the morning with a smile on his face and say ‘I’ll make it to tomorrow.’ And we’re college students, we kind of feel like every hour is a drag, and he’s just pumped for every hour.”
Mastin and Miller, who spent essentially the entire past year planning this weekend’s event, say they want as many people as possible to feel the camaraderie and experience of Relay for Life, whether they rally for twelve hours or just stop by to show support.
“You don’t have to know somebody or be personally affected by [cancer] to be there, and that’s what we try to promote,” Miller said. “It’s just a way for us all to come together as a campus, celebrate the life that people get to have from beating this disease, as well as look back on the people that we’ve lost and be there for each other.”
“Celebrate, remember, fight back” this weekend at Relay for Life. The participation fee is $15 before the event and $20 at the door.