5C Relay for Life Combats Cancer with Campus, Team Engagement

Hundreds of handheld luminaria will replace the Claremont McKenna College track stadium lights Saturday, April 5. The Luminaria Ceremony is part of the Claremont edition of the American Cancer Society’s (ACS) Relay for Life, the goal of which is “to create a world with more birthdays.” 

Run at the 5Cs by the Claremont Colleges Against Cancer (CCAC) organization, the event will provide an opportunity for both fun and fundraising to further the fight against cancer. The 5C event, with a birthday party theme, promises “24 hours of fun, friendship and fighting back” for students and faculty and staff members, as well as the greater Claremont community. 

The Relay for Life activities begin with an opening ceremony on Saturday at 11 a.m. on the CMS Track. The opening ceremony kicks off the festivities by celebrating cancer’s frontline fighters—those who have battled or are battling cancer. At the outset of the relay, there will be a “Survivors Lap,” during which cancer survivors will circle the track to musical accompaniment and the cheers of a crowd that will include other Relay for Life participants. The Survivors Lap celebrates not only the individual victories of survivors, but also the efforts of all those who have fought to vanquish cancer. 

For the Luminaria Ceremony, which will occur Saturday at 8 p.m., participants will take part in a display of handheld luminary in an effort to light up the darkness both physically and symbolically. 

Also included is the Fight Back Ceremony, a more personal component of the event. This ceremony is meant to represent the personal commitments each participant makes to saving lives by fighting the war against cancer until it is won. These commitments are made to the self, loved ones, and those who have been lost, making the battle a daily fight as long as necessary. 

Interspersed among these more formal ceremonies, the CCAC has planned a variety of other fun activities to be enjoyed by all. These include water balloon fights, a cappella performances from 5C groups, video games, karaoke, cake decorating, improv performances, and movies.

The centerpiece activity, of course, is the relay itself. The relay continues throughout the night, with team members camping out in tents when they are not actually on the track. Each team must have at least one member on the track, whether running or walking, at all times during the 24-hour period to serve as a reminder that cancer never sleeps. Although many people participate as a team, individual relay participants are also encouraged to sign up.

Along with remembering and honoring those who have battled cancer, the Relay for Life is also a fundraiser to earn money for ACS’ patient support and cancer research projects. The funds donated will support research into the ways that individuals can lower their risk of cancer and efforts to raise awareness about cancer. 

Relay for Life’s effects go far beyond the money they raise. For Becky Gold SC ’15, the CCAC production co-chair, Relay for Life has been a great personal help. Gold was diagnosed with cancer during her senior year of high school, three months before she participated in her first Relay for Life. 

She said that she was initially hesitant to participate. 

“I wasn’t sure I was ready to handle an event that was about cancer for 24 hours,” she said. 

Ultimately, however, her best friend persuaded her to participate, and the event was a profound experience for her.  

“Participating in Relay that year gave me more hope of beating cancer than anything else had,” Gold said. “Relay was a key factor in coming to terms with having cancer at 17.”

Relay for Life organizers strive to create an environment that is both inspiring and fun for all involved.

“Relay has a place for everyone,” Gold said. “Whether you had cancer, a family member had cancer, or a friend or teacher or pet, there’s a way to honor each and every person. Also, it’s just so much fun; there’s an endless amount of things to do. Relay manages to strike a wonderful balance between amazingly fun and incredibly touching.” 

CCAC is the Claremont contingent of the nationwide Colleges Against Cancer organization, which involves students and faculty and staff members in the fight to eliminate cancer. Other CCAC projects have included involvement in the Purple Roads campaign in February, which raised $1 million nationally to fight cancer; the Women’s Cancer Health Workshop in February at Pomona College; and the Breast Cancer 5-kilometer event. 

At press time, more than $36,000 in donations have been raised. Relay for Life participants, survivors, donors, and volunteers can sign up, donate, and get more information about the event by contacting claremontcollegesrfl@gmail.com and visiting relayforlife.org/claremontcollegesca. Registration is $10. The Facebook event can be found at facebook.com/events/288650151289221.

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