Third Annual Relay for Life Gets Wes Students Walking
Friday, April 20 marked the University’s third annual American Cancer Society Relay for Life. This year around, three hundred people registered and raised a total of $30,000.
Relay for Life is a national event to raise money and awareness for cancer research. During the event, participants create teams, and at least one person from each team is supposed to remain walking at all times during the twelve-hour period.
“It’s the idea that cancer never sleeps, so neither will we,” said [Wesleyan’s] Relay for Life Co-Chair Hannah Monk ’12.
This year’s Relay featured a mechanical bull, bounce house, Wes Belly Dance, Wes Breakers [breakdancing group], acapella group Notably Sharp, improv group Gag Reflex, Prometheus, a pie-eating contest, s’mores, and the Whey Station outside of Usdan.
Teams this year raised a total of $30,000, which was on target, but still significantly less than last year’s phenomenal $50,000 total.
“$50,000 was an anomaly, that was way more than we expected to make last year,” Wheeler said. “We didn’t expect to keep going up by such huge margins.”
This year’s Relay fell on April 20, a widely recognized day for the celebration of cannabis. Monk and Wheeler said that, because there are so many events in the spring at the University, they did not have many choices for the date.
“I think we were worried about how 4/20 would conflict with our event,” Wheeler noted. “But the weather was so great, and we were really visible because everyone was out there, so we were really happy with that.”
Relay for Life consists of three parts: Celebrate, Remember, and Fight Back. Monk was in charge of the Remember portion’s “luminaria,” during which people put glow sticks in bags in remembrance or celebration of someone affected by cancer.
“It’s the part of the ceremony where you connect with why you’re there,” Monk said.
Although few people were walking during the Relay, Wheeler and Monk expressed satisfaction with the event. According to them, most people focus on fundraising and donating instead of walking.
“I think with a college event, depending on the campus and how well people understand the purpose of Relay, it’s hard to get people to walk,” Wheeler said. “A college campus is so dynamic that when you tell people they need to be here for twelve hours on a Friday night, it’s hard.”
According to Monk, the event began to die down around eleven o’clock, and one of the performers never showed up, instead going to a fraternity house to play. She noted that it is difficult to persuade the fraternities not to host parties on the same night as Relay.
“We’re really trying to build it into the thing to do that night,” Monk noted. “And we’ve tried to have verbal agreements with the frats, and we get an ‘oh yeah, we won’t [host alternative events]’ and then they stole one of our bands that was supposed to perform for us and had Top 40 Cover Band at DKE [Delta Kappa Epsilon] on Friday night.”
The event also drew people from the Middletown community. However, there is a slight competition between the University’s Relay for Life and the one Middletown hosts in June.
“We had some people from the community who are familiar with what Relay is who came to walk our event,” Monk said. “And they were still walking as we were cleaning up.”
Monk and Wheeler noted that it can be difficult to collect donations from businesses and people who are already planning to donate to the Middletown Relay. Because the Middletown event takes place in June, the University is unable to merge with Middletown for the cause.
The student group has hosted two kick-offs this year to raise awareness and register people, in addition to bake sales and tables. The group also organized an event for Wed. April 25, “Relay Night at The Nest.” The bar will charge a cover at the door and bands will play on the deck.
“We’re using venues that college students already use,” Monk said.
The committee has grown from three people its first year to about ten people this year. Monk and Wheeler noted that the need for increased awareness about and anticipation for the event moving forward, citing Fast-a-Thon as an example of a successful event.
“They’ve been around for a long time and people know when it’s Fast-a-Thon season,” Wheeler said. “It takes a little while to become an event that people anticipate, so we’re just waiting for that.”
The students also expressed their confidence in the committee moving forward. Former co-chair of the committee Emma Caccamo ’13 will be returning from her study-abroad in the fall and will continue working with the event. Monk and Wheeler are graduating this year.
“We’re really confident,” Wheeler stated. “I think this is the first year where I felt there is a real foundation going forward and a lot of underclassmen who are really excited to carry on the event, and [Emma] definitely knows what she’s doing.”