Every year, Relay for Life brings the University of Miami community together to raise money for the American Cancer Society in honor of cancer survivors and those who have lost their battle with the disease.
“Relay for Life is a signature fundraiser for the American Cancer Society and throughout the year, all different organizations and community partners raise money and create different fundraising teams,” said sophomore Alex Hawkins, the people lead of Relay for Life. “Its mission is to raise awareness and money, which goes toward cancer research and travel costs for patients and their families.”
However, this year, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center sponsored the event with a $5,000 donation. Dr. Erin Kobetz, associate director for population science and cancer disparity, spoke at the event, highlighting Sylvester’s work in cancer research and patient care.
Additionally, in accordance with this year’s theme of “Sporting for a Cure,” a number of student organizations and community partners set up their booths on the Foote Green, offering a range of sports-related activities and food associated with that sport.
One club that participated in the fundraising event this year was Counseling Outreach Peer Education, which helps to raise mental health awareness on campus.
“COPE participated in Relay for Life because as a society we are focused on the physical implications of cancer, but we sometimes neglect the impact that it can have on mental health,” said junior Kendall Mather, the COPE communications chair. “It is important to attend to our mental health in general, but especially during an intense medical treatment.
Mather, a cancer survivor who is approaching her fifth year in remission after treatment for Leukemia said, “It was great to see so many people come together to raise money for this cause.”
As the attendees walked around the circle of booths, they noticed luminarias, makeshift lanterns made of paper bags with glow sticks inside, to commemorate those who are currently fighting cancer and those who have tragically passed away. A name was written on each luminaria to represent a victim of the disease.
“Luminarias are a way to remember those impacted by cancer and for us to realize how many lives for impacted as one luminaria represents a person,” sophomore and UM Relay committee member Keerthana Mohan said. “When these all light up even though [cancer] is a terrible thing, there is some sort of light and that is what we are trying to recreate.
For Relay for Life President senior Jacob Perez, the event is something he will always cherish as his chapter at UM approaches its ending.
“It was not until I joined Relay for Life here at UM that I really saw the huge impact it has on the community,” said Perez. “Networking with all these different survivors and their caregivers it is really special and we have built something out of it. It has grown so much for the four years I have been here and it will continue to grow.”