Keene State College students, staff members, family, friends and community members took a 12-hour relay in hopes of someday ending cancer once and for all.
On Saturday, April 7, Relay for Life was held in the Spaulding Gymnasium from noon to 12 a.m. and included everything from groups of people walking around the gym together, to people donating their hair to Beautiful Lengths, a group on campus that works to raise money for cancer research.
With a school-wide goal of $17,000, more than 20 teams participated in the process of raising money for the event. One group that attended the event was the sorority Phi Sigma Sigma.
Junior KelliAnne Cammarata said her sorority has spent a lot of time posting links to social media and reaching out to family and friends, including those outside the Keene community. “Cancer has been a part of my family because my grandfather had stage four lung cancer… Such a big amount of people have been affected, and it is an awesome event for the community to show how it affects us all in some way,” Cammarata said.
For one member of Alpha Sigma Phi, cancer not only has an impact on his family, but also a member of his own fraternity. Sophomore Andrew Reilly said a member of his fraternity’s skin cancer has changed the way he participates in things.
Reilly said no matter the person, everyone knows someone who has been impacted by cancer in some way, and it’s important to show those with cancer how much people care about them.
With all the work that Relay for Life requires to put on, many students have helped over the past several months to promote the event on social media and connect with organizers in an effort to increase donations.
Junior Kyle Kemp said one day, his Public Relations class ran a poll and found that everyone in the class had been affected by cancer in some way. “I have been through a lot associated with cancer. My sister got Leukemia at a young age,” Kemp said.
Kemp explained this year’s Relay for Life event is a reboot year, as last year, most of those who took the initiative to run the event graduated. “I hope this year, the new people who have organized it will continue to do so… It makes you realize how much goes into organizing it,” Kemp said.
First-year Ashley Chopelas is on the KSC Dance team and performed at the event. “It is cool to dance at Relay for Life here because I used to dance at the Relay for Life in my hometown,” Chopelas said. Chopelas said she’s raised more than $100 and everyone on the team has taken part in Relay for Life previously at some point.
One sorority, Sigma Rho Upsilon, held an event called “Coins for Cancer” as a way to raise money for Relay for Life. Junior Sienna Tedesco said the fundraiser allowed students and community members to donate spare change that they had.
Coordinator of Community Service at KSC Jessica Gagne Cloutier said nearing the goal of $17,000 was a great feeling and, with the Relay for Life planning process only lasting about eight weeks this year, she was happy to see so many teams of students sign up and raise a lot of money so quickly.
Gagne Cloutier said having both repeating teams and new students is good for Relay for Life, and she hopes that those who are participating for the first time will continue to grow the event in future years.
One major part of the annual event is the Luminara Ceremony, according to Gagne Cloutier. “Luminara is a paper bag with a light inside, which is meant to represent those individuals who have had cancer, have lost someone because of cancer or have been affected by cancer in some way,” Gagne Cloutier said, and added, participants can write a message on the paper bag. KSC junior Ashley Betancourt took one of the leadership roles at this year’s event and said it was a humbling experience to take part in the planning process. “It is a good time to celebrate those who have survived cancer and mourn those who have lost their lives due to cancer,” Betancourt said.
Colby Dudal can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org