Relay for Life Rallies for Hope

Hundreds of glow sticks cast a soft purple light over Pomona-Pitzer’s Strehle Track as participants of Relay for Life walked solemnly in a culmination of the day’s proceedings. Behind them, dozens of paper lanterns spelling out “HOPE” were rearranged to spell “CURE” in a gesture symbolic of the event’s goal: to harness hope in order to find a cure for cancer.

Hosted by Claremont Colleges Against Cancer (CCAC), Relay for Life ran from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday, Apr. 16, to raise money for the American Cancer Society. Participants walked and ran around the track throughout the day while the middle of the track was filled with fun activities. The theme of this year’s relay was childhood, featuring a cotton candy machine, a pie-eating contest, and human-sized inflatable hamster balls. The day also saw a number of performances, including appearances by 5Circus, Without a Box, and a cappella groups the Claremont Shades, One Night Stanza, and Women’s Blue & White.

The relay saw lower than usual attendance this year due to a location change and conflicting events, from athletic games to Pomona College’s Nochella Arts and Music Festival. Despite the smaller turnout, the event raised over $18,000 in the fight for the cure in part thanks to participation from large teams like Pomona-Pitzer Athletes and Laxers Against Cancer (Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Lacrosse).

Despite the disappointing turnout, Savannah Melberg SC ‘18, Relay for Life’s vice production chair, regarded the event as a success.

“I don’t think you can count any amount of donations or participants fighting against cancer as anything but a success,” she said.

In contrast to the lighthearted nature of the day, the night ended with the emotional Luminaria Ceremony. The ceremony was introduced by a student speaker who lost both her mother and grandmother to cancer. Following her moving story, participants were invited to break their glow sticks if they had a friend or family member who had fought the disease. As the group began their silent lap of the track, they dropped their glow sticks into the paper bags lining the track, decorated with messages commemorating and celebrating loved ones who had grappled with cancer.

“My favorite part of Relay is the Luminaria Ceremony,” said Michelle Ozaki CM ’16, production chair. “I end up just sitting in front of the Luminaria bags I have made to honor those I have lost and I just take the time to remember them and the beautiful lives they lived.”

Like Ozaki, others cited Luminaria as their favorite part of the night for the powerful response it elicited. Asem Berkalieva PO ’18, vice president of CCAC and next year’s incoming president, added, “I think it’s the most emotional and moving part of relay, and that’s when we really kind of come together and realize why we’re there in the first place.”

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