Twenty-four hours after stepping onto the UCSB track Saturday morning, the several hundred volunteers participating in this year’s Relay For Life learned they had raised approximately $23,000 for cancer research.
Event co-chair Patrick Male, a fourth-year communication and psychology major said approximately 250 people participated in the event, which is double the number that participated in the 2004 relay. Participants in the relay started walking at 10 a.m. Saturday and traded off through the night, continuing on through Sunday morning. Male, who is president of the Colleges Against Cancer organization, said the event, which cost $700 to host, also doubled the amount of funds it raised this year, and all proceeds from the relay will go to the American Cancer Society to help fund the search for a cure for cancer.
“It’s such an important cause to raise money for research because that’s how patients are living longer and getting better,” Male said.
Third-year art history and communication major Laura Domingo, who co-chaired the event with Male, said relay participants formed 25 teams, each of which aimed to keep at least one person from each team walking around the track throughout the entire duration of relay.
“To have one person on the track at all times signifies the fight against cancer,” Domingo said. “We keep persisting.”
Domingo said participants included local residents, members of campus organizations and cancer survivors. She said the event opened with a lap commemorating those in attendance who had battled cancer, and said walkers also enjoyed activities including a watermelon eating contest and performances by campus groups Iaorana Te Otea and Tappers Anonymous. Local sponsors provided an array of free food and gift certificates to participants, Domingo said.
Male, an 11-year survivor of bone cancer, said the most moving portion of the event for him was the luminaria ceremony, which took place after nightfall. As part of the ceremony, volunteers lit bags of candles and arranged them to spell “hope” and then “cure.” Additional luminaria bags, decorated by participants in honor or memory of friends or family who had struggled with cancer, were placed around the track to light the walkers’ way during the night.
“During the luminaria ceremony, everybody there who has lost somebody to cancer or been affected by cancer gets together and we have a vigil,” Male said. “Everyone reflects on why they’re really there and it’s a touching time.”
Kappa Kappa Gamma sister Robin Babbini, a first-year English major and ovarian cancer survivor, said her sorority was able to raise $3,300, which was the most money contributed by any one team at the event. She said several of the Kappa sisters who walked at the event participated because their lives had also been affected by cancer.
“I’m a cancer survivor,” Babbini said. “I’m here to raise money for cancer research. We have a team and we’re walking because a lot of us have been touched by cancer in really personal ways so we want to show our support for people with cancer.”
Third-year biopsychology major Stephanie Wahl said she was participating in the event for the second year, despite the difficulty of the relay.
“I’m with the National Society of Collegiate Scholars,” Wahl said. “Last year we were sore, but it’s a good cause and a lot of people come out for it. It’s really fun.”
During the walk, fourth-year pharmacology major and Kappa Sigma Peter Goren said he ran between 30 and 40 miles to train for the 100-mile marathons in which he participates. Fellow Kappa Sigma member Brian Johnson, a fourth-year political science major, said he thought the event was a good opportunity for the fraternity to combine a social event with community service.
“We have two cancer survivors,” Johnson said. “It’s a pretty simple cause to get people to donate to. It’s just a good day to hang out and while you’re at it, do something good for the world.”
In 1985, Dr. Gordy Klatt walked on a track at the University of Puget Sound, Wash. for 24 hours to raise money for cancer research, according to the Relay for Life website. The following year, Relay For Life became a team event. Jeb Baird, a spokesman for the Santa Barbara chapter of the American Cancer Society, said today, roughly one-third of the organization’s research funding comes from Relay For Life events.
“It’s a chance we all have to find a solution, to find a cure,” Baird said. “We contribute to national research and we have local programs to help people with cancer.”
Male said the reaction of the relay’s participants was a good sign for the success of future relays.
“A lot of people said they were honored and inspired to be part of the event. That’s what I call a success,” Male [[ok duh]] said. “My plan is to make sure the torch is passed on and continue the momentum it has built up and see it continue to get bigger and better every year.”