Lawrence hosts first American Cancer Society relay event

Grace Berchem

According to the American Cancer Society, more than 3.5 million people worldwide participate in Relay for Life every year. This year, Lawrence will host its first ever Relay event. It starts May 25 at 6 p.m. and will go until the early hours of May 26. The event will take place on the practice football field by Alexander Gym.

It will be open not only to the Lawrence community, but also to the larger Appleton community; everyone in the area who is interested is encouraged to participate.

Relay for Life is an overnight event meant to raise awareness about cancer with proceeds benefiting the American Cancer Society. The basic premise is that participants walk around a track throughout the night, and while no individual is required to walk the whole night, teams are required to keep at least one person on the track at all times. However, that’s not all: There are also games, live music, raffles and a lot of celebrating.

Described by Alyssa Onan, Lawrence senior and Committee Chair, “It’s a really fun event. There’s going to be a ton of entertainment. It’s a great opportunity to spend time with your friends. It’s going to be like a big party for 12 hours for a good cause. As I see it, it’s a win-win.”

The evening will open with a ceremony in which survivors share their personal stories and participants will be invited to reflect on the ways in which cancer has touched their lives. Later on in the night, there will be a survivor lap during which luminaries will surround the track in remembrance of those lost to cancer.

Following that, there will be a fight back rally, and finally, at 6 a.m., there will be a closing ceremony along with breakfast.

The mastermind behind bringing Relay to campus, junior Phil Bushbacher, said, “You don’t really know how many people are touched by cancer until you come to one of these things and see how many members of your community have similar experiences to you. You’re not alone, and sharing those experiences creates a tighter knit community.”

As of last week, 17 teams had already signed up. Sports teams, sororities and fraternities, as well as a variety of other student organizations have already registered their teams. Even members of the faculty as well as Lawrence alums have organized teams.

The planning committee hopes for at least 25 teams, but at this point, the response from the Lawrence community has far exceeded their expectations. At this point, there are already somewhere between 200 and 250 people involved from the Lawrence community and larger Appleton community.

Sarah Tiano, Lawrence freshman and Committee Chair member, said, “We want to get the community involved — students, faculty and staff, people in the area and survivors are welcome to come. We want to make sure this event reaches as many people as possible.”

For people still interested in participating, the official registration deadline is April 23. Each team should consist of about ten people and there is a $10/person sign-up fee. This includes a t-shirt, which participants will get the day of the event. Unofficially, people are welcome to register even up until the day of the actual event, but they will not be able to get a t-shirt at that point.

In addition, the organizing committee is asking that each team will try to fundraise at least $1,000. That may sound like a big number, but it breaks down to only $100/person. Participants can ask family and friends for donations, but they are also encouraged to hold fundraising events on campus.

“We’re looking forward to seeing what the teams come up with in terms of fundraising. We know we have a lot of creative people on campus,” said Onan.

Everyone’s life has been touched in some way by cancer, whether it’s through personal experience or that of a family member or friend. It’s a battle we all face together and for many, this is something that hits very close to home. In fact, one of the Lawrence community’s own will share her personal experience with cancer.

Tiano said, “This will be the first relay that I’ll be participating in as a [cancer] survivor. Now I can share my story and be open about that. My disease is one that is manageable and there’s cure and I’m so grateful for that. I think everyone diagnosed with cancer should have that opportunity and that chance. That’s why this event is so important.”

“Everyone knows someone that’s been affected by cancer. This is a way in our super busy lives to do a little something that’s actually a big something,” Tiano added.

The success of Relay for Life depends on the involvement of the Lawrence community. Those interested in volunteering for the event should contact Volunteer and Community Service coordinator Brenda Zuleger.

In addition, those who would still like to sign up can register online at the Lawrence Relay for Life website, Be on the lookout for more events leading up to the actual night of Relay for Life in the upcoming weeks.

Whatever you decide to do, just get involved! This marks the beginning of what will hopefully become an annual event at Lawrence, so let’s come together and show support for this inspiring new tradition.