Relay for Life at NU raises $90,000 for cancer research
Photos by Virginia Nowakowski and Kayla Reardon / North by Northwestern

In the mid-1980s, a colorectal surgeon named Gordy Klatt decided to help raise funds for his local American Cancer Society Office. He didn’t go canning, or hold a food-themed party, however. Instead, he ran continuously for 24 hours on an indoor track at the University of Puget Sound in Washington.

“Cancer doesn’t sleep, and neither do we” became the motto of Klatt’s movement, now called Relay for Life. Communities around America and the world now hold overnight events to raise both awareness and donations for cancer research.

Northwestern hosted its own Relay for Life on Friday night as students gathered on the Norris East Lawn from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. for the cause.

“This year we are outside because of Henry Crown Sports Pavilion closing, which is different, but I do kind of like it,” said Lauren Burke, a McCormick senior participating in the event. “It is nice being outside even though it is cold.”

Relay for Life has been held in Henry Crown Sports Pavilion since it came to Northwestern more than a decade ago, but with recent construction being done on the North Campus gym, Relay’s organizers had to find a new space for this year’s event.

“I think this being the first year that Relay is in Norris was kind of an opportunity for all of us to have our say in setting some kind of precedence for how it will happen in the future,” SESP sophomore Fannie Koltun, the director of survivorship, said. “It was definitely a challenge because until we had concretely decided on the layout of Relay there wasn’t any idea of what it was going to look like.”

Despite cloudy skies, the rain held off, allowing participants to lap the pavement track and watch different student performances as planned. Still, cold winds blew off the lake and teams huddled under blankets and occasionally stepped inside Norris to stay warm. At one point in the evening, Relay for Life participants also bought hot slices of pizza from teams fundraising onsite.

Through fundraising efforts at the event, registration fees and fundraising events in the weeks leading up to Relay, Northwestern’s Relay for Life raised more than $90,000 for the American Cancer Society, according to Communications sophomore Jamie Joeyen-Waldorf, the public relations director of the event. However, executive members of Relay said they aren’t done yet.

“We also have time to fundraise after the event because the cutoff for our Relay, for when we can count the money going toward this year’s Relay, is way past our actual event,” Michaela Shapiro, director of fundraising said.

There will be another major fundraising opportunity on May 5, according to Joeyen-Waldorf. She said this year’s Relay will likely break a hundred thousand dollars when everything finishes. All this money goes to both cancer research and programs for cancer patients and their families, according to Missions Director and Weinberg sophomore Jazib Gohar.

The American Cancer Society, the main beneficiary of Relay for Life's fundraising efforts, is one ofthe biggest funders for cancer research. It also funds services for patients including a Road to Recovery program, which allows volunteers to sign up to drive cancer patients to appointments as well as a hotel stay program, which offers patients free housing when they have treatments that are far from home.

Although Gohar said he is happy with the total so far, Relay for Life is not only about raising money for cancer research. A key part of his job is educating people about cancer and its far-reaching influence.

“Cancer has touched every person on this campus and in the world,” Gohar said.

Cancer survivors and students shared their experiences with cancer during the Luminaria ceremony, held on the Lakefill. Before the ceremony, participants had the opportunity to purchase and decorate luminarias, bags memorializing those lost to cancer or continuing to survive with the disease. Volunteers lit the luminarias with glowsticks and arranged them in a circle on the Lakefill for the ceremony. Teams and participants quietly made their way around the memorials as the a cappella group Ladies in Red sang “And So It Goes.”

“That’s the main thing that people usually tend to come to–the Luminaria Ceremony– because that’s really the most moving,” Shapiro said. “It really gets to the core of what Relay is really about.”

“It’s a great time to reflect and look back on and remember cancer survivors,” Burke said.


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