By Lauren Toole
After the Kenyon Relay for Life groups raised a record-high of $48,000 last year, Kiera Busching 13 and Jen Vihon 13 knew that they had high expectations to meet once they accepted their positions as Relay for Life Committee co-chairs. They set the bar at $50,000 to meet by the end of the Relay for Life event on Saturday, April 13.
At press time, Relay for Life of Kenyon College has raised $53,863.40, and expects to raise $3,000-$4,000 at the event. And Busching and Vihon plan to collect even more. People said that we wouldnt beat last years, Vihon said.
We took that as a personal challenge, Busching added.
Relay for Life is an organized, overnight community fundraising walk that features ceremonies, tributes, entertainment all with the common goal of raising money for cancer research, relief and a cure. It arrived at Kenyon in 2007, and originally was organized and handled by one person.
Last year, a committee was formed to help plan Relay. Its creation became an effective tool for Relays success and allowed the committee to collect the largest amount of money in the events history at Kenyon. They were nationally recognized with the Spring Sweepstakes Kenyon was the college with the highest percentage of people who contributed.
Just recently, the Knox County Relay, which consists of Kenyon, Mount Vernon Nazarene University and Knox County Relay, placed third nationally per capita in fundraising.
In the past, it had been so much of a small group initiative. This year, because they had such a strong system set in place from last year, weve just been able to build on that, Busching said.
Vihon, who previously served as the Luminaria event chair, was selected as the Committee chair at the end of last year. Once they gave me the full description of how much work it was going to be, I asked Kiera to be my co-chair, she said. No person would be able to handle that amount of work.
Busching has been involved with Relay since her first year at Kenyon, and after her grandmother passed away from lung cancer over the summer, she accepted Vihons offer to join her as co-chair, and increased her commitment to the cause.
Busching and Vihon believe that this years success is due to a number of causes not the least of which is their enthusiasm and creativity when it comes to highlighting team and individual efforts. Vihon admits to hunting down people in Peirce Hall who have raised a substantial amount of money and shouting her appreciation for surrounding diners to hear.
Part of the reason why Relay is so successful is because of those personal connections and finding those personal stories about what motivates you to Relay, Busching said. We start out team captains meetings reminding them why were there, personally, and then we invite them to share.
A lot of them have taken that to heart, she said.
So far, 37 teams are registered with around 435 participants. The football team has raised around $2,000 compared to last years $900. Similarly, the Archon Society has garnered around $5,800, while last year it accumulated around $1,000.
We really couldnt do it without [the teams], said Christina Mastrangelo, director of student activities and Greek Life. The committee can only do so much. We really need the teams to be a part of this and step up as well.
Mastrangelo, who serves as the Relay for Life faculty advisor, became involved with Relay after she arrived at Kenyon two years ago. She attributes part of the events growing success to involving more students in the planning process, acquiring committee members as soon as possible and beginning the process early in the year. The Relay committee had a retreat at the beginning of the academic year and created a timeline for its goals and expectations. We keep exceeding our goal, Mastrangelo said.
Throughout the week, the Relay committee has been working tirelessly to raise awareness about Saturdays event.
Paint the Campus Purple Week, a signature marker of Relay, began Sunday, April 3, and started to get the word out about Relay by lining campus with purple and posting facts about cancer and the actual event on Saturday. On Monday, Relay, partnered with AVI, threw a Beat the Heat Challenge, where students could bet on who they thought could beat the heat of a sequence of increasingly hot chili peppers. On Wednesday, Relay members collected money at the door of the Village Inn.
This Friday, a Luminaria ceremony will honor survivors and those who have lost their battles with cancer. In an event named Paws for a Cause, Relay has invited the dogs of campus to come out to Ransom Lawn at 4:30 p.m. The balloon release will be at 5:00 p.m.
Themed Superheroes, this years Relay will have a number of different features and entertainment options to keep participants engaged. The mens soccer team will be drawing caricatures, while the members of Zeta Alpha Pi will be making donuts on-scene. The womens basketball team will also be offering lap dances individuals may pay a member of the team to dance around the track for a lap.
President S. Georgia Nugent has also offered four articles from her closet two pieces of jewelry, a pair of shoes and a purse to auction on Saturday night. Vihon and Busching hope to acquire other signature items from professors to auction off as well.
After Saturdays event, the Relay for Life Committee, along with some teams, will spend Sunday at a hope lodge a place for cancer patients and their caregivers to stay if their home is far from the place of treatment.
When its all said and done, the committee at that point has worked 24 hours straight, and were exhausted, Mastrangelo said. But you feel good because at the end you know youve made a difference and this isnt something thats just going to impact Kenyon; its going to impact anyone that has ever been touched by cancer, and we all have.
Donations will be accepted through Saturday, and can be made at relayforlife.org/kenyoncollege. All proceeds go to the American Cancer Society.