Annual Relay for Life event raises cancer awareness, funds

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Hundreds of students participated in the annual Relay for Life fundraiser Friday on the Foote Green, where the grass was lined with canopy tents and white luminarias, small candle lanterns made from paper bags. The luminarias were lit during the evening Luminaria Ceremony in honor of cancer survivors and in memory of those who had passed away from cancer.

The event lasted from 4 p.m. to midnight, a change from last year’s Relay, which lasted from noon to midnight on a Saturday. A total of 46 teams comprised of 622 total participants have raised at least $36,000 toward the American Cancer Society. A large portion of the credit-card proceeds from the day of the event have yet to be counted toward that total, and the upfront costs of putting on the event were largely sponsored by the Butler Center for Service and Leadership, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, the Student Activities Fee Allocation Committee and Student Government. Outside prize sponsorship was received from SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, Mellow Mushroom, Vizcaya Museum & Gardens and other local businesses.

The community fundraising event is organized each year at the University of Miami by a volunteer Event Leadership Team (ELT). According to overall Event Lead Danielle Sheerer, team involvement and student engagement were a lot stronger this year, despite the fact that the event was shorter and held on a weekday.

This year, the Butler Center, the Miller School of Medicine and the University of Miami School of Law were among the participating teams. Other teams were comprised of a variety of Greek student associations, interest clubs and residential colleges. The ELT and the UM Law Team came in first and second in fundraising, with the Alpha Delta Pi sorority coming in third.

Senior cancer survivor Gianna Horak raises her phone with the flashlight turned on to support fellow students in the “She’s the Man” competition at the Relay For Life event Saturday night. Shreya Chidarala // Staff Photographer

Senior cancer survivor Gianna Horak raises her phone with the flashlight turned on to support fellow students in the “She’s the Man” competition at the Relay For Life event Saturday night. Shreya Chidarala // Staff Photographer

Many participating teams offered food and desserts, but the event also featured more creative fundraising ideas, including a “jail and bail” fundraising activity, a dominoes tournament and a rock climbing wall.

The main stage featured performances from student dance team Miami Motion, a “Miss Relay” drag-queen competition and a Pantene Beautiful Lengths hair-donation challenge.

Sheerer said that she hoped Relay would continue to increase its reach around campus.

“We want to make this event something that people are excited about,” Sheerer said. “It’s really about bringing the campus together and building a strong community for our campus survivors. A friend of mine was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma as a junior. You always think about your grandparents or older people being diagnosed; having it be a peer was really hitting.”

In fact, campus survivors played a part in leading the event this year. Freshman Andres Hidalgo, who was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia four years ago and finished treatment last summer, worked with Sheerer on the ELT this year along with fellow freshman and survivor Agustin Rodriguez Granda.

“Participating in this year’s Relay was truly a wonderful experience,” Hidalgo said. “This being my first Relay, I was blessed to be able to share my story as well as hear the story of other survivors who had been affected by cancer. I am thankful that I was able to work with members of the ELT to make this year’s Relay a success.”

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