It seems in today’s world, it is nearly impossible to find someone that has not been affected by cancer. Whether it be a family member, a friend or an acquaintance, millions of lives have been touched by the disease.
Syracuse University students and members of the Syracuse community came out April 14 to fight back against cancer in the 10th annual Relay for Life.
Because cancer never sleeps, the event ran from 6 p.m. on Saturday evening until 6 a.m. Sunday morning. Teams camped out in the Carrier Dome overnight to help raise both awareness and funds for the American Cancer Society. The final amount raised was $149,000.
Relay for Life is one of the largest worldwide fundraisers, bringing together more than 3 million people in the U.S. and 20 other countries to raise awareness and funds for cancer research.
More than 2,000 students and community members came out in support of the cause. Erin Shuff, an American Cancer Society Representative for SU's Relay, felt the energy build in the Dome as more and more students poured through the doors.
“There’s power in numbers," Shuff said. "There’s something about the impact that a huge crowd of people has, and you definitely feel that when you’re at the Dome."
Christina Ventura, a Relay for Life committee member and broadcast journalism sophomore, said the committee wanted to attract students from all different groups.
“You go through a lot of the organizations here on campus ... Greek life, sports teams and clubs,” Ventura said.
The Relay Committee started planning the specifics of the event in September. Separate committees are designated to entertainment, the luminary ceremony, team organization and working with survivors.
Ventura specifically worked with the survivors who attended the event. In addition to being honored at the event, survivors are also given special gift bags that include personal cards with messages of hope and inspiration.
Ventura explained her experience with one survivor at SU's Relay.
“A guy came up to me that battled cancer and was telling me how he couldn’t believe we do what we do," Ventura said. "He asked me, 'Why do you give us presents and why are we the heroes? You guys are the heroes... you’re the ones that are making a difference, you don’t need to honor us.'"
The night was filled with various different events to keep the attendees engaged.
“You definitely need to make sure that the people that are coming are entertained and want to stay ... that it’s not a chore to come," Ventura said. "It needs to be a fun event, but you also need them to know why they’re there."
Live music was provided throughout the event, including various bands and performance groups, such as a Syracuse University female a ccapella group, The Mandarins.
Many attending Relay also planned their own activities to help engage those at the event and to raise money throughout the evening. The Phi Delta Theta Fraternity set up a photo booth for students, while other groups offered bake sales, henna tattoos and face painting.
About three hours into the event, the lively atmosphere dimmed as the community stopped for a time of reflection during the luminaria ceremony.
Paper bags lined the turf, all dedicated to someone who has battled cancer. The bags were decorated with personal messages for loved ones who had died. The lights were dimmed and music played softly in the background as the names of deceased loved ones were read aloud.
Shuff noted the striking noiselessness in the Dome during the ceremony.
“You’ve got over 2,000 people and they are all quiet. Other than the music, you can hear a pin drop in that place," Shuff said. "Every single person there is respectful of that moment and really gets into the emotional component of the ceremony. It gives me chills."
The ceremony also celebrated the lives of those who are still fighting cancer and promoted the hope that one day, a cure will be found.
“Certainly people still lose their lives to cancer," Shuff said. "But there are so many stories of success out there that it inspires you to keep going because we are making progress, we are saving lives and the more we fight this, the more lives we’re gonna save."
Here is the money raised annually by SU's Relay for Life efforts since 2009.
Search our database for the money raised by teams participating in this year's Relay for Life.