It’s safe to say that everyone knows someone whose been affected by cancer, and this year’s Relay for Life at Hopkins was certainly a testament to that.
I signed up for Relay early in the fall and joined the Luminaria committee which is responsible for a ceremony that takes place the night of Relay to reflect on those who have been affected cancer. My earliest exposure to Relay was going each year to my oldest sister’s college to walk with my dad as he participated in the Survivor Lap. My dad was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma when I was in first grade, so while I wasn’t completely aware of what was going on as my parents tried to keep my understanding limited, it’s something that has had a lasting effect. The few memories of his fight with cancer that I do have involve him emerging from the bathroom with a newly shaven head and building my new desk the night before going in for surgery. I also have memories of the constant support: my first grade teacher bringing by food as I was getting ready for school and constant wishes for my dad and a speedy recovery. Finally learning that he was cancer-free, even at a young age, was an enormous relief and taught me to really appreciate life.
Everyone in Relay has their own story, their own connection to cancer, and that made us an incredibly motivated group of people. Throughout the year we held events like Kickoff and an a cappella fundraiser, Caroling for a Cure. Various committees such as sponsorship and marketing worked all throughout the year, but the bulk of my committee’s work was in the few weeks prior to Relay both selling luminaria and finally, the night of, placing and lighting the luminaria bags around the track. That night, Keyser quad was taken over by a moon bounce, food galore, and our luminaria lining the perimeter. Prior to that, though, writing the names of survivors and victims was more emotional than I anticipated; with more bags made “in memory of” than “in honor of,” it really makes me hope that with our efforts we’ll be able to make it the other way around with more survivors of cancer.
By the time the event started, the amount of people that showed up was really incredible, and only grew as the night went on. While weekends are usually spent studying and catching up on work or going out to parties, to see that people valued Relay that much was pretty cool. By the time we got to the Luminaria ceremony, everyone gathered around with glow sticks in hand, and as the committee leaders named a group of people (parents, grandparents, friends, oneself) who we were honoring through Relay, everyone lit their glow stick to show just how connected we all are by cancer. Seeing all of the support made me realize just how much Hopkins students care about each other as well as the things important to their peers.
In the end, we were able to raise a total of $64,561.43, which is incredible and will go on to help the American Cancer Society in countless ways, but at the same time it demonstrated the closeness of the community at Hopkins and how we come together to support a cause. I can’t express how much it meant to have my friends there with me that night; those with 4 midterms coming up this week (hi JHU_Ian!), those with papers due and invitations to parties all showed up, and for me, being at Relay with my dad in St. Louis, it meant a lot to have my friends around. As tough, but necessary, as it can be to deal with the uncertainties and unfortunate aspects of life, being able to do it with my friends made it all the more meaningful, and seeing how everyone at Hopkins came together to support the cause was just as incredible.