79 teams collaborate to help fight against cancer
Relay uses nostalgia to encourage
Published: Monday, April 16, 2012
Updated: Monday, April 16, 2012 12:04
With many students staying up late studying due to an ever-approaching finals week, UCF students stayed up late on Friday night for a different reason: to walk against a deadly disease.
Hundreds of UCF students and Central Florida citizens met at Memory Mall on Friday night for the 18th Annual Relay for Life at UCF in an effort to fight back against cancer.
Returning to UCF and its community, the volunteer-driven event gave participants the chance to raise money for the American Cancer Society, spread awareness of cancer, celebrate the lives of survivors and remember those who lost their lives to the disease as they walk the Memory Mall sidewalk, which served as the official track.
To raise money and gain donations, 79 organizations, including the UCF LEAD Scholars Program, the Orlando Cadet Squadron and several UCF Greek organizations, formed teams and developed creative fundraisers, which were set up at tents and tables along the sidewalk.
“Teams will be walking throughout the night; it kind of symbolizes a cancer patient’s journey through cancer,” said Tyler Moose, a senior majoring in interdisciplinary studies and the student executive director of Relay for Life at UCF. “Through the night, they have their struggles of sticking through it and getting through their treatments and everything, and as the new day comes about, they see hope and they see that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Teams will have at least one participant on the track at all times throughout the night for 18 hours, and hopefully we’ll raise a lot of money to one day say that cancer is no more.”
The event got started with a survivor lap, where visiting cancer survivors donning purple T-shirts walked around the track to the cheering and applause of spectators.
Seth Rojhani, a junior mechanical engineering major, was one of the many cancer survivors who made their rounds on the track.
“I’m actually here volunteering as well, but they just kind of gave me a shirt and said ‘Go ahead and walk your survivor lap, too.’ I think it’s great to see the supporters welcome people who are going through this and have gone through this, and it’s just a good community thing,” said Rojhani, who had survived neuroblastoma, a malignant tumor that develops around nerve tissue, when he was only 11 months old.
The survivor lap was followed by a lap for caregivers, for anyone who had given any type of treatment to cancer patients. Once these two laps were finished, the teams made their very first lap of a long, 18-hour event that wouldn’t end until the next morning.
In addition to managing their fundraisers, each team had to follow a theme with their tent, decorating it accordingly. With this year’s theme set as “When We Were Young,” tents displayed themes such as Nickelodeon cartoons, classic video games and The Mighty Ducks.
Catherine Siew, a junior biology major and member of Phi Sigma Pi, explained the tent that her fraternity had created.
“The theme for the UCF Relay is ‘When We Were Young,’ and so we chose Hey Arnold, because that’s kind of a classic Nickelodeon show that I think everyone kind of relates to and it keeps it fun and whimsical for everyone,” Siew said. “We just want to bring everyone to the good old days, when your Saturday-morning cartoon comes up.”
As the day went on, a variety of activities and events took place to keep the energy level high among the participants. The Muppets was shown on an inflatable movie screen, local rock band Hope 4 Heroes played a live set and an array of themed laps were done throughout the night, including a limbo lap, backward lap, neon lap, dance lap and even a bed-head lap.
As night fell, a luminaria ceremony was held to remember those who had lost their fight with cancer. Paper bags were decorated with pictures and the names of loved ones, filled with sand and then placed along with side of the track with a lit candle inside.
As the luminaria glowed in the night, a silent lap took place to show respect for past cancer victims.
“The luminaria ceremony offers the opportunity to remember loved ones who have lost their lives to cancer and to honor those who have won their battle,” Moose said. “It is time for us to reflect upon how this disease has touched each of us personally and a time to look inside ourselves with quiet reflection and find hope.”
As the crowds of people quietly walked the track, complete strangers in tears hugged one another and hugged anyone with a purple T-shirt. The somber ceremony was followed by more festivities, however, as the teams continued to push their fundraisers in an effort to raise more money.
As morning came, the money that each team raised was counted. Sigma Phi Lambda came in first place for fundraising out of the 79 teams. Moose said that the actual amounts are to be announced in the coming week.
Davina Hovanec, an employee at the UCF library and one of the many cancer survivors who came to the event, stressed the importance of Relay for Life to cancer survivors.
“It’s certainly helped a lot of people. I’ve done this online and in person. For me, I get the emotional support from it. I think survivors get the most out of it if they come to be around others who have gone through a similar circumstance as they have,” Hovanec said. “As far as other people, I think it helps to have as many people as possible to show that if they ever have to experience cancer, then they’re not alone.”
To learn more about Relay for Life, visit www.relayforlife.org.