After five years, the University of Richmond’s Relay for Life organization hosted the fundraiser on April 2 and collected $22,585 for the American Cancer Society, three times the expected total of donations, said Nancy Bagranoff, faculty advisor and accounting professor.
The national movement was inspired by Gordon “Gordy” Klatt, who walked 24 hours straight at the University of Puget Sound’s track and raised $27,000 for cancer research, according to the official Relay for Life webpage. Sophomore Kate Amabile, the organization's president at UR, and first-year Halle Zweibel, the survivors' committee chair, spearheaded the fundraiser's comeback.
UR’s Relay for Life took place at the intramural fields and was shortened to five hours because of COVID-19 restrictions. Participants signed up in teams and each person from the team walked around the track for an hour, Amabile said.
"The day into the night symbolizes the fight for cancer and how there are light times and dark times in the journey," she said.
Because Relay for Life hadn't happened since 2017, it was necessary for students to establish themselves as an organization at UR, Amabile said.
“There’s a bunch of steps we had to take to become a student organization,” she said. “We had to present in front of a board, write a constitution, have at least ten students sign up — it took a lot to just get established.”
The Relay for Life event hadn't happened for the last five years because no one was stepping forward to do the work, said Bagranoff.
"For a relay to happen, you need a passionate supporter who is willing to do the very difficult work it takes to bring an event and initiative like this to life," she said. "It was Kate who came along and wanted to do it."
The executive committee of UR’s Relay for Life worked eight to ten hours a week for four months to make this event a reality, Bagranoff said.
“This was the best experience,” she said. “I got to work with so many students and watching their enthusiasm and energy towards this [event] was really inspiring.”
Bagranoff plans to work with Amabile and Zweibel again to create an even bigger Relay for Life in spring 2023.
Several communities on campus supported this event. The E. Claiborne Robins School of Business was the presenting sponsor. SpinnURs danced, CHAARG led a workout, Big Little band performed and the Octaves and sophomores Kavya Borra and Billy Apostolou sang at the event. There were other forms of entertainment, including a photobooth, giant Jenga and spike ball, Amabile said.
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Zweibel felt very moved by the ceremony, she said.
"I kept my composure during the speech but as soon as I was done, I ran to my mom and I was in shambles." She said.
The Luminaria Ceremony happened after dark, and Relay for Life participants come together in a circle and dedicate a luminaria to a loved one who has or is currently fighting against cancer, according to the Relay For Life’s official webpage.
All participants in the ceremony had a glowstick, Amabile said.
“There’s a moment where you crack the sticks if you have lost someone or have taken care of someone who has cancer,” she said. “It’s emotional when you see everyone in the circle cracking the glow stick with you. You relate to them.”
After the Luminaria Ceremony, there was a silent lap around the field, Bagranoff said.
“We all walk together and just think about what we just heard at the ceremony,” she said. “That part is definitely sad but uniting at the same time.”
Contact news writer Ananya Chetia at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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