Aldrich Park was filled with enthusiastic cancer survivors, teams of people, tents and luminarias in an overnight event to raise money for the American Cancer Society in its second annual Relay for Life, which took place on April 29. The walk on the asphalt road that circumscribes the Commencement Lawn helped people to remember individuals lost to cancer and celebrate cancer survivors.
This year’s Relay for Life drew 26 teams and over 250 participants. The event raised over $28,000.
Each team was required to have at least one of its members walking or running on the road at all times during the 24-hour relay. Participants in the walk received donations that went toward the American Cancer Society to fund cancer research, influence the government and advocate policies that will save lives from cancer.
‘We’ve been planning for the event since June of last year, after the last Relay for Life,’ said event co-chair Jennifer Eggers, a fourth-year biological sciences major. ‘We also get a lot of help from the American Cancer Society.’
Eggers and her mother are both survivors of cancer.
‘We raise money both before and after the event,’ Eggers said. ‘Donations can also be made to participants online.’
The relay started with cancer survivors making the first victory lap around the Commencement Lawn followed by other teams. During breaks from the walking, individuals were entertained with inspirational speeches, fundraisers, water balloon tossing, square dancing, limbo and various other games. A screen was also set up in the park for people to watch ‘The Pirates of the Caribbean,’ which was the theme for this year’s Relay for Life.
‘Dr. David Fruman, a researcher at UC Irvine and who was funded by an American Cancer Society grant, spoke about his research and brought his mom who is a 20-year cancer survivor,’ said event co-chair Andrea Caivano, a fourth-year biological sciences major. ‘Also, each of the campsites has a cancer theme and holds fundraisers. For instance, Colleges Against Cancer is promoting physical fitness and is selling cookies that are shaped like sports balls. Just yesterday, a couple thousand dollars were raised from on-campus fundraising alone.’
At nightfall, paper bags with glow sticks lined the path around Aldrich Park for the Luminaria Ceremony. The luminarias not only provided light for runners and walkers, but they reminded participants of individuals who have passed away, who are still struggling with or have won against cancer.
‘I enjoyed the Luminaria Ceremony the most,’ said Phuong Duong, a third-year biological sciences major. ‘We walked along the road while a little girl played the violin and a man read the names of cancer victims. It was very touching.’
Leslie Sinclair, a third-year social ecology major, enjoyed the Luminaria Ceremony as well. Sinclair was diagnosed with melanoma, a type of skin cancer, in July 2002. The cancer entered her lymph system and spread to her eyes, brain and spine.
‘You often hear statistics and numbers about cancer survivors, but when you hear people’s names, you think, ‘God, that’s somebody’s uncle, somebody’s father, somebody’s sister,” Sinclair said. ‘It makes it very real. It reminds you that there are people who suffered, lost or survived. It’s very moving.’
Nearly all the participants at the relay were survivors or had family members and friends with cancer.
‘Just last year I lost a buddy to lung cancer,’ said Khoa Dao, a fifth-year criminology major. ‘Just recently my dad has been diagnosed with leukemia, so I guess it hits home. The more I spend time with these people, the more I can relate. Part of winning the battle is having a support group who can give advice, help you and relate to you.’
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