Relay for Life “Car Smash” offers students catharsis

Students gathered near Blake A’s archway and prepared to wreck a car—for charity—on Wednesday March 23. The “Car Smash” event was a fundraiser for Relay for Life where students could pay a small fee to put dents in a pickup truck with a mallet. While the event may have just seemed to be all about destruction on its surface, the broken windows and bruised paint jobs were indicative of the meaningful fervor that powered these hits.

A pickup truck with its tires popped and a mysterious refrigerator in its bed was parked on a large grey tarp surrounded by cylindrical caution cones and yellow tape. On that tarp—among sledgehammers and in front of a speaker playing Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space”—was Relay for Life fundraising chair member junior Abbie Ainslie.

“We’d like to raise about $200 like we did last year, but the weather may work against us,” Ainslie said. “I hope that people come out to smash the car. It’s something we’re normally not allowed to do and its midterms and spring break just ended, so why not smash a car?” For many, the car smash held a lot more depth to it than simply destroying something for fun. “Cancer somewhat runs in my family and one of my best friend’s mom’s was recently diagnosed,” Ainslie said. “The car smash allows us to reduce the big, scary concept of cancer into something physical and take out our frustration on it.”

Other fundraising chair members expressed similar thoughts. “If they had any bigger sledgehammers, I’d love to smash the car,” sophomore Marissa Berry said. “I’ve had multiple family members affected by cancer and, just recently, my Grandpa passed to it.” 

As the event went on, more people showed up and the car earned more scars. Soon, it had plenty of chips in its paint and cracks in its windows. A small crowd of people had hands full of singles to give it some more damage, but from the bottom of the windy road leading to the event came a student marching with a bat of his own and a $20 bill. That student was freshman Hunter Willis.

With his first strike, Willis blew out the passenger-side window of the pickup and all those after dealt serious dents to the same side’s door. The crowd went wild.

“You can keep the bat,” Willis said after his performance.

Willis’ impressive smash best expressed the catharsis many students were able to gain through the event. “I got home from break and the first thing I heard about when I woke up the next day was my grandma being diagnosed with ovarian cancer,” he said. “It’s treatable, she’s going through chemo right now and she’s in my prayers constantly. I’m still kind of uneasy about it though and this really allowed me to let out some pent-up anger—to help me be stable.”

Although onlookers may have just seen an assemblage of barbaric undergrads smashing an innocent pickup truck, what was really happening was a healing process.

The car smash not only raised money to help fight against cancer worldwide, but also allowed some Geneseo students to deal with their own personal hardships associated with the disease.