Relay sticks out the weather to raise money for cancer research

To commemorate loved ones who have lost their battle with cancer, participants of Relay for Life were given a glow stick in lieu of candles because of the rain.

After a week of 80-degree weather, Mother Nature took a turn for the miserable. Temperatures nosedived to the low fifties and the rain began to fall. But that didn’t stop the 35 Relay for Life teams from bundling up in sweats and blankets to raise money for cancer research.

Friday at 7 p.m., participants gathered at Smith Stadium to participate in Relay for Life, an event that raises awareness and money for cancer research.

Lexington senior Erica Sturgill, who served as team development chair on the Relay committee, said the weather caused the ceremony a lot of problems.

“The weather was awful, so they wouldn’t let us have power on the field,” she said. “Nobody could run extension cords or anything.”

 Though many of the groups had stuck it out through the rain and power loss, Sturgill said the committee decided to call it a night at midnight.

“We just thought, ‘There’s no point to have everybody out here being miserable’,’’ she said.

Before calling it a night, the committee improvised, picking up a generator from a participant’s house, which allowed the planned events to go on for a couple of hours until the generator failed.

Brentwood, Tenn., senior Colby Osborne served as the chairperson on the Relay planning committee.

“It’s unbelievable,” he said about the amount of people that stuck out the weather to participate.

Osborne said Relay for Life was an essential event because it not only provides money for research programs, “but it provides a healing opportunity for those who are affected by cancer.”

He said being with others who have lost family members or those who have battled cancer helps that person know they aren’t alone in the fight.

“There are others that share the same passion for fighting this disease as they do,” he said.

 Osborne noted that Relay is growing immensely — it’s taken over the U.S., he said.

“It’s not just an event to go to,” Osborne said. “It’s really become an experience that unless you have gone to one, you can’t really experience.”  

Conyers, Ga., first-year graduate student Kelsea Shultz was part of the Preston Recreational Intramural Sports team. Shultz said her team wanted to get involved with Relay because many people are active with it on campus.

“There is such an enthusiasm for it,” she said. “It’s raining and cold, but we are having a great time huddled under the tent.”

Shultz said she was surprised at how many people were still playing corn-hole, dancing and walking around.  

“It’s freezing and wet, but it really is a good experience,” she said. “We are all eating cupcakes under our tent right now.”

While it rained most of the evening, there was a pause in the downpour for the first three laps of the evening.  

“It didn’t rain for the laps in the beginning,” she said. “There are three laps: one for the survivors, one for their caretakers and family, and one where everyone walks. It didn’t rain for that.”

Shultz has participated in Relay for Life all her college career, earning her undergraduate degree at Vladosta State in Georgia. She said the event is also popular there.

 Detroit first-year graduate student Stefanie Kassab was also on the Preston Recreational Intramural Sports team.

“It’s been pretty cool to see how many people are sopping wet,” Kassab said. “It adds character to the event, shows the great spirit.”

Elsmere sophomore Allison Martin came to the event with Sigma Kappa sorority because her grandmother had breast cancer. Martin said the luminaria was special to her.

“You just see everyone who understands,” she said.

 Before the event, $13,000 had been raised for the American Cancer Association online. But Osborne said as they total up all the teams’ amounts within the next few weeks, they expect the total will be $16-17,000.