Relay For Life raises over $175K, ends downward trend

Rory Mather | Contributing Reporter

Washington University students raised a total of $175,546.81 at this weekend’s 14th annual Relay For Life event, which is an increase from last year’s total and a step forward after a few years of a downward trend in donations.

Relay, the second largest event on campus after WILD, began at 6 p.m. Saturday night and ended at 6 a.m. Sunday morning.

Relay for Life co-directors Jessica Gates and Rachel Goldberg, both seniors, open the event with speeches commemorating those who have died of cancer. The event began at 6 p.m. Saturday night and lasted until 6 a.m. the next morning.Jane Zankman | Student Life

Relay for Life co-directors Jessica Gates and Rachel Goldberg, both seniors, open the event with speeches commemorating those who have died of cancer. The event began at 6 p.m. Saturday night and lasted until 6 a.m. the next morning.

The event, which culminates the fundraising efforts of the participants with a variety of activities and entertainment, raises money for the American Cancer Society (ACS). This year, it garnered 1,339 registered participants, and in doing so aided research efforts to combat the disease.

Kanna Rook, senior community manager for ACS, noted that the 12-hour event, held on Francis Field, is meant to give participants the sense that cancer is a disease that never sleeps.

“When it’s 3 a.m. and I think about quitting and giving up, I think about my dad battling cancer and how what I’m going through is just a one-time thing,” Rook said.

As in previous years, the festival included a silent rave, the Luminaria Ceremony and many performances by a cappella groups, dance groups and new this year, a hypnotist.

For many, one of the most memorable parts of Relay For Life is the Luminaria Ceremony. By dedicating an illuminated luminaria bag decorated with personal messages, photos and memorabilia, participants can honor their loved ones and celebrate the memory of those who have lost the battle to cancer.

Freshman Alex Kramer said that this was her favorite part of the entire festival.

“I made a bag for my grandmother and my dad. Just the idea that I’ll be able to see my family members supported by so many people is amazing,” said Kramer.

Funds raised through the event are utilized to help support cancer patient services, cancer research and prevention programs both across the nation and specifically in the St. Louis area.

“Some of the money raised by Relay For Life goes back to the Wash. U. medical school to help fund cancer research right here in the St. Louis area,” senior and event co-chair Jess Gates said.

Senior and event co-chair Rachel Goldberg noted that fundraising totals for the event surpassed those of recent years. The group has already beat last year’s number by $15,000 dollars and expects to raise even more.

Event organizers added that one of the driving forces that helped break the decreasing trend in fundraising was fraternity Sigma Alpha Epsilon.

This year, SAE created the Walk for Jacques team to honor Jacques de Villiers, a fraternity brother who died from cancer this past summer.

“Relay for Life was one of the most powerful events I’ve ever been to. It is heartbreaking that cancer has affected so many people’s lives, but it is standing on that track with 60 of my fraternity brothers surrounding me that makes me truly thankful for how many people care about fighting back,” freshman SAE brother Michael Kaushansky said.

SAE made it an internal goal to raise $100,000 in de Villiers’ memory, and has already raised just over $40,000 through different fundraising efforts—including last weekend’s 5K memorial run—a portion of which will be donated to Relay for Life, Rook said.

Although Relay For Life occurs once a year, Goldberg emphasized that event organizers want the purpose of Relay For Life to be on students’ minds throughout the year.

“Relay For Life is a year-round effort,” said Goldberg, “We’ve been working since last April to coordinate the fundraising events, and we want students to know that the battle for cancer should also be a constant idea in their minds.”

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