By Madeleine Thompson
When Hannah Laub ’16 and Chelsea Katzeman ’14 met during the Crozier Center for Women’s Big Sister event during Laub’s first year at Kenyon, they discovered that both of their fathers had been diagnosed with the same form of lung cancer. With Katzeman’s encouragement, Laub got involved in Relay for Life as Luminaria co-chair at last year’s event, and this year, the two are sharing the position of event chair.
“I had never met anyone that had gone through something similar to me,” Laub said. “That felt like fate.” Katzeman described their position as co-event chairs as “a mix between leadership, being a cheerleader for the group … and being really, really organized.”
So far, 28 teams and 200 individual participants have signed up for Relay and have raised a total of $16,843.89. Because of last year’s unprecedented last-minute donations that surpassed the $50,000 goal by nearly $20,000, Kenyon’s Relay committee has set the bar high from the start with this year’s goal of $70,000.
Groups ranging from Greek organizations to sports teams to groups of friends have created Relay teams. Sean Grant ’14, founder of the Nite Bites Café, has partnered with the Archon Society to fundraise by having Archons members deliver food and advertise that any tips they receive go to Relay. “[The Archons] emailed me at the beginning of the semester and talked about … partnering up,” Grant said. “Since they started this [fundraising campaign], our tips have increased by a lot. They’ve made a lot of money.”
Having raised $2,664 personally and $3,649 as team captain for the sorority Theta Delta Phi, Zoe Smith ’15 is the leading individual fundraiser. With her efforts, the Thetas are now at second place after the Relay committee. “This year, my boyfriend was diagnosed with a brain tumor,” Smith said. “He’s now in recovery … and now that’s why I really wanted to be a part of Relay and make it even bigger than we did last year. It’s really important to me to show the support for everyone.” Some of the most important aspects of Relay, in Smith’s opinion, are the services they provide to cancer patients. “It’s not only for cancer research — it’s for taking care of people with cancer,” Smith said. “Relay gives people rides to the hospital or wigs if they want a wig. They do a lot more than just cancer research, which I think is really important for people to understand.”
With support from Theta, Smith organized a “Crush for Your Crush” fundraiser, a homecoming tailgate and a bake sale to raise money for their team.
“This year, we really decided that we wanted to put all the money to Relay,” Smith said, adding that last year’s “Crush for Your Crush” fundraiser benefited hurricane relief. “As a group we really like doing it. It’s been exciting knowing that it’s going to a cause we understand.” To raise money for her personal contribution, Smith’s success has largely been a result of an email campaign.
Kenyon’s Relay committee has raised $9,024.90 so far and is always looking for new ways to fundraise and get the word out about cancer awareness. “A lot of what we’re doing is new this year,” Laub said. Additions to the Relay curriculum include a benefit concert hosted at the Village Inn last semester, a Relay Recess program at Wiggin Street Elementary School to educate students about cancer and a cancer support group meeting with the Peer Counselors. “[Katzeman] and I are really trying to make it a community [that is] not only raising money for cancer but … [also acts as] a support group basically, which it hasn’t really been so far,” Laub said.
Katzeman, who has been on the Relay committee for the past three years, is pleased with the position Kenyon’s Relay teams are currently in. “Monetarily … we are ahead of where we were last year at this time for fundraising,” Katzeman said. “But … I check the Relay website every day and it still worries me how much we do have left to go. … It is going well, it’s just still scary when you see that huge [goal] number.”
As ambitious it may be, Kenyon is known in the Relay community for meeting high goals. “In its per capita range, for schools in the range from one to 2,499 [students], Kenyon is second in the country,” said Andrea Perlman, a Relay specialist, who is working with Kenyon for the third year in a row. Last year Kenyon raised a total of $70,028 — over $25,000 more than the next highest amount. Denison University, at number two in the one to 2,499-student per capita range, raised $44,120 and Otterbein University came in at third place with $11,791.
“I personally think Kenyon is so successful because the students and staff are so passionate,” Perlman said. “The students I’ve worked with are not afraid to think outside the box.” Perlman added that one way Kenyon could improve its fundraising efforts would be to “unite the support of the staff and faculty to come out and support the event.”
Relay for Life will be held in the Kenyon Athletic Center on April 12. Donations to Kenyon’s Relay fund can be made online at http://bit.ly/OF4T0y.