Tenth Relay for Life exceeds fundraising expectations

Geneseo’s 10th annual Relay for Life was held in Kuhl Gymnasium on Saturday April 11. Colleges Against Cancer organized the event with support from the American Cancer Society. Unprecedented in its size and success, the event put Geneseo in the top 20 Relay schools in the country. Geneseo’s Relay for Life raised a total of $171,091.25 for cancer research this year, eclipsing the goal of $140,000 before the event took place. Royal Lady Knights and Sigma Kappa raised over $15,000 each, giving them national recognition from the American Cancer Society.

“It really brings people together in a new setting,” ceremonies co-chair sophomore Olivia Holodnik said. “Everyone is working toward a common goal.”

Inter-Greek Council requires every Greek organization to attend. In addition, residence halls, sports teams, dance teams and clubs such as Dumbledore’s Army made teams and participated in the twelve-hour event.

Relay for Life involved a variety of activities for its 2,000-plus participants with three main ceremonies: Celebrate, Remember and Fight Back. These ceremonies honored those who fought or are fighting cancer and their loved ones.

The first ceremony, “Celebrate,” recognized those who had won their fight against cancer and featured senior Cassie DeLays, a melanoma survivor.

“I really wanted to be able to tell my story to raise awareness,” DeLays said. This was her fourth time at Relay but her first as a survivor, as she was diagnosed and treated for melanoma in the summer of 2014.

“I’m lucky compared to a lot of the experiences that people have,” DeLays said. Her speech was part of a ceremony that also included the first lap of the night, which was for only survivors and their caretakers.

Another speaker was Jane Salamone, a doctor whose husband suffered from cancer. She spoke about her role as caretaker both in her home and her career and how it affected her life philosophy.

“We wanted to celebrate caretakers because they hadn’t been focused on as much in the past,” Holodnik said.

Sophomore Julie Episcopo also gave a speech in the “Remember” ceremony about losing her father to cancer three months ago. All the speakers had ties to the campus, either as students, family members of students or alumni.

“It feels like a more personal connection to everyone,” Holodnik said.

These ceremonies were punctuated by a variety of activities and booths that organizations sponsored. “It’s an interesting dynamic,” Holodnik said. “It’s a roller coaster of emotions.”

Throughout the event, attendees walked laps around the elevated track in the gym. While other Relays require a team to have someone walking at all times, Geneseo’s does not enforce this, which allows the walk to take on a different meaning for everyone.

“It’s a way to honor those that you know,” Holodnik said. People can take laps for someone who is deceased or a survivor or to pay homage to a friend or family member suffering from cancer.

The event gave attendees the option of staying until 6 a.m., which dozens of students opted to do.

“It’s such a supportive school and supportive community,” DeLays said. At one point during the “Remember” ceremony, students were asked to stand if they had a mother, father, friend or family member who has or had cancer; almost every person in the room stood up.

“It’s nice to have people who understand what you’re going through,” DeLays said.