Around 7 p.m. Friday, tents and tables littered Busch Field. Under a blanket of threatening storm clouds, co-chair of the Relay for Life committee Erin Skipper ’11 continued setting up tables as 32 out of 53 teams arrived to sign in for the 12 hour-long Relay for Life.
The event, which Skipper and co-chair Brendan Fields have been preparing for with a vast amount of committee members and countless volunteers since September, was nearly canceled due to rain. Despite overcast skies, Skipper and her large team decided to continue the event regardless of the weather.
“We emailed everyone and said rain or shine, we are going to Relay,” Skipper said. “There was drizzle during the opening ceremonies, but after that it was fine. Seven to eight was the worst, and people just opened up their umbrellas and just kept walking.”
Held at colleges and in communities across the country, Relay for Life is an annual event to increase cancer awareness and money for the American Cancer Society.
“Over 4,500 colleges and communities do it and raise money for cancer research and all programs for American Cancer Society,” Skipper said. “Every year people make teams, and each team fundraises to try and raise money.”
Relay for Life at the College of William and Mary raised $48,000 last year, and the goal for this year is to reach $50,000 with 500 participants.
“This year we are at $30,000 something so far,” Skipper said. “We haven’t figured it out all yet. We are still counting, but you can fundraise up until August.”
The 12-hour ceremony was broken up into three parts: celebrate, remember and fight back. In addition to different entertainment throughout the night, there were fundraisers, games and contests, all while a constant stream of participants walked around the field.
“Relay is a dynamic event because a lot of fundraisers are just like ‘woo party fun’ but this one, you really know why you are there,” liaison to the American Cancer Society Tina Fischel ’13 said.
The event opened with a survivor lap, recognizing all survivors in attendance. A speaker followed this, leading up to the luminary ceremony at 9 p.m. During the ceremony, luminary bags were set up around the walk for all those affected by cancer.
“We have a speaker and then a lap in silence,” Fischel said. “It’s really touching, and it’s just a time to reflect and honor cancer survivors and those who have passed on.”
Relay for Life is a part of the larger organization Colleges Against Cancer. This organization focuses on providing awareness and fundraising for cancer year-round.
“Relay is our main event,” Fischel said. “I work with the American Cancer Society year round to organize other things like the Great American Smokeout and breast cancer awareness rallies.”
Fischel is a transfer from UCLA, which has the largest chapter of Colleges Against Cancer. She became involved this year with the hope of expanding the program.
“I really wanted to expand the club from focusing just on relay to do the year round stuff,” Fischel said. “The Great American Smokeout was in November. We made people pledge on a strip of paper not to smoke and we made a chain out of it so it was like chain non-smokers instead of chain smokers.”
Although Fischel has never been directly affected by cancer, she became involved in the cause after witnessing the damage cancer has caused to countless other people.
“My dad does lung surgery so I have seen people with cancer, and luckily no one in my family has been directly impacted by it, but I feel like we should strike back before it gets worse,” Fischel said.
Skipper, who has been involved in Relay at the College since her freshman year, continues to be involved because she feels it is about spreading the message of caring.
“It’s about caring,” Skipper said. “Caring about the future, because so many people are affected by cancer and the American Cancer Society is all about research, making it better for families, and caring for the people who have it and the families. They care about everyone involved.”
While months of preparation are required for this event, Skipper believes all her hard work paid off in the end.
“It is always amazing when people show up because I am like, ‘someone got my emails,’” Skipper said. “I got a few emails the night before saying this is going to be awesome rain or shine and I was like, ‘this is why I do this.’”