Student organizations came together on a carnival-themed UC Patio to raise money for Relay for Life and the fight against cancer at the University of Miami on Saturday.
Although this year marked Relay for Life’s third year on campus, this was the first time the event was held on the UC Patio, a relatively small venue for a large event. Last year, the event was held at Cobb Stadium.
According to Francisco Lomparte of the American Cancer Society, Relay for Life earned around $30,000 at UM last year. This year, the total is approximately $58,000, Lomparte said.
“The UC Patio was not our first choice, but we made it work,” Evan Fischgrund, an event chair, said. “We turned our weaknesses into advantages. The smaller space is more cozy and intimate.”
Group tents were lined up side by side, with each organization featuring its own unique on-site fundraiser.
The men of fraternity Beta Theta Pi set up a mock jail cell, using “bail” as a means of collecting donations. Even Sebastian the Ibis spent some time behind bars.
John Alexander, team captain of Beta Theta Pi, said that this year there was more incentive to participate in Relay for Life.
“There are more games, a live DJ, live entertainment,” said Alexander, who participated in 2008 as well. “It’s a big step up.”
Alexander also saw Relay for Life as a way to gain recognition for his fraternity.
“Since I’m a Beta, I wanted to get our name out and show that we’re a good group of guys who like to have fun,” Alexander said.
According to Christine Pao, Relay for Life’s Team Development chair, an improvement in this year’s event was the enhanced creativity of the on-site fundraisers.
“Last year there were a lot of baked goods,” Pao said. “This year we tried to have teams think out-of-the-box and tap into their specific specialties.”
For example, the NCAA champion for 10-meter diving, Brittany Viola, helped raise money through bets on how long she could do a handstand on the pool’s diving board, visible from the UC Patio.
“That was amazing,” Pao said, after Viola, breaking her handstand, dove elegantly into the pool below.
Another member of the Relay planning committee, Carolina Tejidor, cited the Patio’s central location and the pre-event publicity as reasons for Relay’s success this year.
“We make it a big deal so everybody else thinks of it as a big deal,” Tejidor said.
One concern that planning committee member Fabiana Barnabe had was how the luminaria bags, a key part of Relay for Life, would be affected by the tighter space of the Patio. The illuminated bags, bought in honor and in memory of cancer patients, lined the inside of the Relay track.
“It was just a tiny bit more restricted because people had to be careful around the luminaria,” Barnabe said. “But people still had fun. They played their Frisbee and their football.”
Although Relay for Life had been an event at UM in the past, UM Relay became an official campus organization only recently.
Franklin McCune, assistant director at the Butler Center and advisor to UM Relay for Life, said that one reason the event was a success this year was because of the students of the planning committee.
“I was lucky to work with an amazing core group of students,” McCune said. “Words can’t describe how proud I am.”
Because of Coral Gables sound ordinances, Relay for Life, usually a 24-hour event, could only run from noon to midnight at UM. According to McCune, this was an adjustment the planning committee was happy to make.
“Rules and regulations come with a private institution,” McCune said. “There has to be compromise from both sides. We turned it into an amazing event.”