Campus unites against cancer

Turnout hampered by inclement weather

| News Editor

Cancer survivors (L-R) Kyle Newton, Briana Keightley,  Jordan Wagner, Annie Wallentine, Eric Teng and Dean James McLeod lead the survivors’ and caregivers’ lap to start off the 2011 Relay for Life on Saturday night. This year’s Relay raised more than a quarter million dollars for the American Cancer Society.

Cancer survivors (L-R) Kyle Newton, Briana Keightley, Jordan Wagner, Annie Wallentine, Eric Teng and Dean James McLeod lead the survivors’ and caregivers’ lap to start off the 2011 Relay for Life on Saturday night. This year’s Relay raised more than a quarter million dollars for the American Cancer Society.

The track around Francis Field was packed Saturday night with students, faculty and cancer survivors—all of whom braved cold and rain to to support an ongoing fight against cancer.

Despite a lower turnout than it has had in previous years, this year’s Relay for Life raised $259,823.10. Last year’s event, which was held in the Athletic Complex due to rain, raised approximately $180,000.

Students set up tents outside the track on the north side of Francis Field, behind a row of booths run by student groups selling food and other goods to raise money on-site. Many of these groups left their posts before the night was over.

Relay’s signature candle-lit ceremony, the Luminaria, brought the crowd together on the bleachers at 9 p.m. to remember the battles that cancer has waged on their friends and families. In front of the podium, a table was set for one—a symbol for survivors, caretakers and those lost to cancer.

The ceremony included a speech by students Alex and Briana Willcockson, who told the story of their father’s battle with pancreatic cancer. The talk ended on a hopeful note as they shared his story of recovery.

The ceremony included an a cappella performance from After Dark and the reading of a poem called “I Light a Candle.” It culminated in a reflective lap as After Dark sang “Amazing Grace.”

A video presentation followed in the “Reflections” tent in the northeast corner of the field.

The event, which lasted from 6 p.m. Saturday until 6 a.m. Sunday, kicked off with an opening ceremony that featured speeches from Chancellor Mark Wrighton and his wife, Risa; James McLeod, vice chancellor for students and dean of the College of Arts & Sciences; and John Rambo and Joanna Perdomo, co-chairs of the Relay for Life steering committee.

Entertainment throughout the night included dance performances by WUSauce and Garba Indian dance as well as a trivia competition. The Amateurs a cappella group also performed.

Free food, including pizza, coffee provided by Greek Life, and Chipotle burritos, was available to participants throughout the 12 hours of the event.

A relatively small group of participants remained at the end of the night to see the closing ceremony, at which the event’s fundraising total was announced.

Students speculated that fewer people attended this year because of the bad weather.

“It was just cold,” sophomore Tim Han said. “I’m pretty sure if it was warmer, there would have been a way larger turnout.

Last year, Relay for Life was moved inside because of cold and rainy weather, and a similar move was considered for this year.

Han, who stayed until the end of the night, reflected that fewer people stayed until the end this year, probably because of the weather. Still, he said, he enjoyed the atmosphere of this year’s event.

“Being outside was pretty fun,” he said. “It’s more of an experience.”

Chloe Rosenberg contributed to this article.

The 2011 Relay for Life steering committee poses with posters showing the fundraising total as of the closing ceremonies.

The 2011 Relay for Life steering committee poses with posters showing the fundraising total as of the closing ceremonies.

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