By Phoebe Lewis
Hannah Laub ’16, Luminaria ceremony chair of Kenyon’s sixth annual Relay for Life (RFL) was one of hundreds of students who gathered at the Kenyon Athletic Center (KAC) on Saturday, April 13 for the overnight event sponsored by the American Cancer Society.
In an unprecedented fundraising effort, 37 teams and 444 participants raised $68,000 this year, surpassing the record-breaking $47,000 collected at last year’s Relay. The Committee’s original goal ﾗ one they considered ambitious at the time ﾗ was $50,000.
“I really don’t understand how such a small community came together to raise so much money,” Laub said. “I definitely had my doubts that we would even reach $50,000.”
Dr. Gordy Klatt founded Relay in 1985: he ran for 24 hours to raise funds for the American Cancer Society.
Since then, Relay has become a worldwide event raising over $4 billion. Relay for Life at Kenyon was started in 2007 by Shawn Gulati and Kyle Packer (both ’08), and it quickly became an annual event.
Campus groups, from Greek organizations to the biology department actively fundraised for Relay in the weeks leading up to this year’s event, selling baked goods, pies-to-the-face and pancakes. The Relay for Life Committee, Archon Society and Wonder Persons ﾗ a team with members from the larger Gambier area ﾗ were Kenyon’s top fundraising teams, with over $23,000 raised among the three groups.
“There’s been really friendly competition between the teams to see who raises the most,” said Lauren Amrhein ’13, co-leader of the Archon Society Relay team. “Other fundraisers [should] take a leaf out of Relay’s book. They’ve been so successful, especially on this campus.”
Amrhein said her father’s involvement in cancer research fundraising inspired her role in Relay.
“My father, for his 50th birthday, chose to ride 100 miles in the Pelotonia, and that made me think, if he can do that, why shouldn’t I?” Amrhein said.
The 2013 Relay Opening Ceremony began at the KAC at 6:00 p.m. on Saturday. It was followed by the “Survivor’s Lap,” during which cancer survivors took the first walk around the track in recognition of their battle against the disease.
Next came the Luminaria ceremony, during which the KAC went into a blackout lit only by glowsticks memorializing those who have battled or continue to battle cancer.
“Everyone would break their glowstick when I called out their reason to Relay,” Laub said.
The Relay Committee chose to take an unusual approach to the Luminaria ceremony. After Robert A. Oden, Jr. Professor of Music Benjamin Locke gave the Luminaria speech about his personal struggle with cancer, Laub held him onstage as the Chamber Singers, and eventually all the attendees, sang him the “Kokosing Farewell.”
“After I told my story of being a cancer survivor, the people in attendance ﾗ led by the Chamber Singers ﾗ all stood up and sang ﾑKokosing Farewell’ to me,” Locke said. “It was a total surprise and a marvelous gesture of support.”
Laub said that her participation in the Relay for Life, especially the Luminaria ceremony, has shown her the community of people affected by cancer that she was unaware of before.
“I broke my own glowstick when I said, ﾑFor a parent,’ but I wasn’t expecting so many others to break theirs,” Laub said. “I suddenly heard tons of cracks, and looked up to see many, many little lights in the audience that hadn’t been there before. I was suddenly overwhelmed with feelings of comfort and support.”
In an email to the campus a few days after Relay, members of the Committee expressed their gratitude to everyone involved.
“We are absolutely in awe of the power of the Kenyon community and compassion it has for all those affected by cancer,” they wrote. In addition, because of the remarkable amount of money raised, Kenyon’s Relay was named a “Gold Standard” event, meaning it ranks in the top percentile of fundraisers for its size.
“I think it is a powerful thing to come together as a community to raise money for a good cause,” Locke said, “but it is even more important to share our stories of both survival and loss. I was honored to be a part of it.”