For 18 hours, the Pacific Lutheran University campus was devoted to a fundraiser to fight cancer that united students, faculty, community members and more than $19,000 in donations.
Each spring, PLU hosts its own Relay for Life, an American Cancer Society fundraiser popular nationwide. This year, PLU had 20 teams and 227 registered participants, according to PLU’s fundraising page.
After months of preparation and fundraising, PLU Relay for Life hit campus last Friday and Saturday to celebrate survivors, honor caretakers, gather more donations and even make some students marathoners.
Relay began on the edge of Red Square accompanied by brisk winds but sunny skies, and rain never arrived to dampen the walkers.
The opening ceremony began shortly after 6 p.m. with Marilyn Knudsen speaking about how cancer and disease in general affected herself and her late husband, a professor who taught at PLU.
Cancer survivors and their caretakers traditionally take the first lap, but after that, the goal is to have at least one person from each cancer-fighting team on the track at all times — hence the “relay” in Relay for Life.
This year’s track began under a balloon arch just off Red Square, continued toward Hague Administration Building, curved left to Stuen Hall, left to the Karen Hille Phillips Center for the Performing Art and completed the loop back at Red Square.
The Relay for Life committee members — students who organized Relay — had set up a stage for music, performers and speakers near the start of the track, tents of the various teams were scattered across the grass and different fundraising booths lined the edge of the track.
These donation-inducing activities included face painting and the opportunity to pie a Resident Assistant in the face.
To keep the participants awake, the committee planned a number of activities ranging from musical and dance performances to yoga and zumba. Music played for much of the night and the morning as well.
Senior Victoria Harkins, a cancer survivor who’s been doing Relay events since high school, said it’s enjoyable to eat cake and talk to people at Relay.
“But it’s also kind of fun to walk laps and talk with friends,” Harkins said. “Especially late at night when you’re walking laps and you’re halfway delirious.”
Harkins is one of the committee members, a role she said involved a lot of work but was also enjoyable.
One of the co-chairs of the committee, junior Hannah Andrascik, also began Relay for Life events before attending PLU. Both of her parents are cancer survivors, and she said she participates in Relay in honor of them.
“I think it’s an important cause to be involved with,” Andrascik said. “I think we need to find a cure.”
At around 10 p.m., the Luminaria ceremony began. Harkins said committee members have been collecting the white paper bags for months and attendees could craft one the night of Relay as well.
Luminaria makers inscribed each bag with messages in honor of or support of cancer patients. The bags lined the track on both sides, a candle inside so that each stood out in the darkness.
After a speech from cancer survivor Daniel Heath, an associate professor and the department chair of mathematics, participants walked a lap in silence to honor those who died from, survived or who continue to fight cancer.
Senior Cody Cano, a member of team Ordal, said his grandfather died from cancer and he made his first Luminaria then.
“Seeing that [Luminaria] as I walk around gave me a sense of happiness,” Cano said. “It’s a good way to remember my grandpa. His flame is still burning even after he’s gone.”
Cano said he wanted to walk a marathon this Relay for his grandfather.
“I do it now in memory of him, and it’s a good cause,” Cano said.
PLU President Thomas Krise and his wife, Patty Krise, donated money so Relay participants could enjoy a hot breakfast in the morning.
While about 70 people had arrived for the opening ceremony, by the time the closing ceremony began at 10:40 a.m. Saturday, roughly 30 participants and the committee gathered.
The committee members had already taken down the stage and teams had already packed away most of their tents.
Those who remained heard one last cancer survivor story from community member Rob Hanlon before they walked the final lap of Relay for Life 2014.
PLU Relay is still accepting donations till the end of August. To donate, go to PLU’s Relay for Life page. ◼︎