Relay For Life

CNU supports the American Cancer Society


Students playing Just Dance at Relay for Life Photo taken by Fiona Sullivan

On April 1, Christopher Newport University held their annual Relay for Life in support of the American Cancer Society and every individual who has ever been affected by the destructive disease. 


Held in the Fieldhouse in the Freeman Center from 5-10pm, students had the opportunity to come and participate in the relay by walking around the track and also play all sorts of games from Just Dance to cornhole. Many organizations tabled and had their own creative ways to raise money such as bake sales and ‘guess how much candy is in a jar’ and even a polaroid photo booth. 


For many students, it was their first relay and they had only come because they had heard of it from a friend or were bored on a Saturday night. However, they soon realized that there is so much more to the event than what meets the eye and though CNU can be considered a small school, it still brought attention to the worldwide fight against cancer. 


To show a bigger picture, Relay for Life is the signature event of the American Cancer Society that occurs every year all over America in order to save lives while also recognizing and honoring those who have suffered and/or passed away from the disease. It is a movement that brings communities together from all different walks of life. 


Though cancer is a disease that has been around forever, Relay for Life was not formed until 1985 when Dr. Gordon Klatt walked and ran for 24 hours to raise money for the American Cancer Society. According to the Relay for Life website, he thought of how others could do the same and pictured a 24-hour fundraising event that different teams could participate in. 


Now there are more than 2500 Relay events around the country whether it be in a neighborhood, a school, or a business. All funds go directly to the American Cancer Society’s four pillars of research, education, advocacy, and health equity, all ways to combat cancer. 


Cancer is the second most common cause of death after heart disease, states the American Cancer Society. With this harsh truth, it is easy to feel like no one can make a difference; however, Relay for Life proves that’s simply not true. 


“It serves as a celebration for all the fundraising students and organizations have been doing for months in addition to recognizing the importance of why we’re fighting this disease in the first place,” sophomore Hannah Gee explained who also serves as the president of the event.


 Gee was first introduced to the Relay in middle school when she participated for the first time in middle school in honor of her grandparents who both passed away before she could really get to know them. “As strange as it sounds, I felt their presence with me the entire time, especially during Luminaria, and so when I saw that CNU has a committee that puts on the event, I knew I had to get involved.” 


Gee and her committee had been planning the fundraiser since the beginning of the school year and it turned out to be a huge success. Many organizations registered as teams to see who would raise the most money and they collected almost $10,000 to support the American Cancer Society. 


There were many fun activities on the schedule such as a cake walk where students could win a mini-Bundt cake and two acapella groups performed as well. In the middle of the event, the night became more solemn with what is known as Luminaria. The lights dimmed as the Fieldhouse was surrounded by paper lanterns, each with a name written on it who had lost their life to cancer. 


Speeches were given by students about the impact cancer has had on their lives and why they decided to Relay and then everyone was given a glowstick. “Break the glowstick if it’s been a grandparent, a friend, a neighbor,” Gee stated as she listed all the ways a person could know someone affected by the disease. All that could be heard on the track field were the cracks of the plastic bending and soon enough, purple light lit up the room. Students walked around the track several times in silence as they reflected on the harrowing impact that cancer has but that society should never give up on finding a cure. 


It was an emotional time but incredibly important to raise awareness to about why everyone was there in the first place. Eventually, the lights turned back on, and the fun resumed for hours but the paper lanterns remained as a reminder that the lives lost to cancer can never be replaced or forgotten.