Over 1,300 participants generated more than $70,200 for the American Cancer Society this weekend by walking, running and camping out over a 24-hour period to fight cancer.
UCSB’s Relay for Life attracted 88 themed teams, including Saved by the Bell and Horton Hatches a Cure for Cancer, to the UCSB track from Saturday at noon until Sunday at noon. A variety of live bands, DJs and games such as Midnight Monster Pong – a caffeinated variation of beer pong – kept walkers alert through the long hours of the night. Additionally, many teams demonstrated their camaraderie and creativity by participating in activities such as tie-dyeing and playing ultimate Frisbee when they were not taking a lap on the track.
Alexis Reilly, a first-year psychology major and survivor of Hodgkin’s lymphoma, said the event also included a special lap for survivors of the disease.
“The Survivor Lap was a really cool experience,” Reilly said. “You’re up there with all the survivors and you’re all wearing purple and everyone’s cheering for you. It’s a really cool way to honor all the survivors and the people who know survivors.”
Reilly also organized this year’s Ceremony of Hope, a portion of the event during which the track was lined with luminaries – glow stick-illuminated bags with names and messages written on them – to honor those who have battled cancer. Several people spoke about their personal experiences with cancer during the ceremony.
“The ceremony went really well,” Reilly said. “All the speakers had really moving speeches. Everyone was crying. It’s usually a pretty sad event because it’s to remember those who have died, but also to honor those who are fighting cancer, and that’s an emotional thing as well.”
Margaret Baker-Riley, mother of UCSB student Danny Riley who passed away last October from a rare brain tumor, said she relayed to commemorate the life of her son.
“I think what stands out the most about our team is that Danny was a student at UCSB,” Baker-Riley said. “For us, it’s a great way for people to get together and celebrate life. It’s also a really good way to get information out there and raise money for research.”
Baker-Riley said it was wonderful to see young people using their creativity to bring attention to an array of different cancers, which ranged from cervical cancer to Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare disease in which cancer is found in the bone or soft tissue.
“I like this [relay] because it focuses on all cancers,” Baker-Riley said. “There’s no competition for money between the teams, just a pooling of interests.”
American Cancer Society intern Brittany Enos said she has helped organize UCSB’s Relay for Life for the past four years in honor of a friend who passed away from cancer.
“It’s so inspiring that these young people give up their day to be here,” Enos, a fourth-year communication major, said. “So many people are passionate about it because it affects everyone. Somebody’s teacher, somebody’s mom, somebody’s neighbor will have cancer.”
According to Enos, this year’s Relay for Life was organized by over 40 committee members and provides an encouraging example of the power of collective action.
“We wanted to make it bigger than ever,” Enos said. “It’s just so inspiring, and I really think it’s the kids who really inspire each other.”