The night of April 7th was a sleepless night for hundreds of UVA students. Despite the cold weather, people gathered on the Carr’s Hill field to stay up until 4 am to show their support for people who are currently battling cancer and for those who have lost their lives to the disease.
Founded by the American Cancer Society, Relay For Life is a nation-wide fundraising event that aims to build a strong and positive relationship for those who have suffered from different forms of cancer. In this year’s Relay, participants walked around the track on the field throughout the duration of the event to symbolize the continuous fight against cancer.
The UVA Relay For Life ranks among the top three largest Relay For Life events in Virginia. Relay For Life at UVA donates all of the money raised by the event to the American Cancer Society, and then, the American Cancer Society uses that money to support cancer research and patient programs both locally and nationally.
Miller Sisson, one of the main organizers of the event, says that he is incredibly passionate about Relay For Life.
“I think tonight is a celebration of those who survived a form of cancer, a memorization of those who passed away because of cancer and finally a fight back against cancer.” Said Miller.
And Miller explained that his personal experience with cancer caused him to join the organization.
“After my grandma’s surgery, we went over to her house…she lifted up her shirt and had this big scar on the center of her stomach. It was shocking for me to see that. My experience as a leader of the program gives me a way to fight back and make a difference and have the chance to tell my grandma: ‘I know what you went through and I’m doing something about it so that another young kid doesn’t have to know how hard cancer is.’”
As Miller mentioned, almost every participant has been affected by cancer in one way or another.
Helen Gaynes, an entertainment committee member, has also witnessed the effects of cancer. Her mom and two of her friends are cancer survivors, and she came to the event hoping to raise awareness and to bring a sense of positivity to a tough subject.
“We are raising awareness of cancer without dwelling the bad parts of it. This night is a night for people to forget about negative influences of cancer and focus on the optimistic future of doing as much as we can to stop people being negatively affected by it.”
This year’s relay at UVA was a huge success. There were 1,500 participants, and they raised a total of $135,000. Even though this year’s Relay For Life has reached its end, the relay for the continuous fight against cancer will not stop. Cancer doesn’t sleep, but neither does faith, hope and optimism.