Six hours into UNH’s Relay for Life event glow sticks lit up the dark in the Whittemore Center. Students remembering their fathers, mothers, friends, aunts, uncles and all those who have died from cancer, sat in silence. The glow sticks were placed in white paper bags with a name of loved one affected by cancer written on the outside. This was a moment of reflection.
Relay for Life is an event held every year by the American Cancer Society to help raise money for cancer research along with other means of support. This year’s event was held on Saturday, April 23 through Sunday, April 24. During the 18-hour relay event that occurs nationwide, members of each group must be walking at all times. According to American Cancer Society staff member and UNH alumna Tara Dickey, this year’s relay should raise about $100,000 in total. Numerous groups, on and off campus, have been working since last year to fundraise.
Relay for Life started in 1985, but this is UNH’s thirteenth year hosting the event. The relay usually takes place in the UNH Field House, but during the past few years, the more spacious Whittemore Center has become the event’s new home. This year, 60 student organizations and more than 900 people participated in the relay.
The American Cancer Society projects that nearly 1.7 million people in the United States will be diagnosed with cancer in 2016. Of that, nearly 600,000 people will die. In New Hampshire alone, 8,680 cases of cancer will be diagnosed.
Cancer research has been occurring for decades, but has there been any progress? On the prevention end of the spectrum, more than 1.7 million cancer related deaths have been avoided since the ‘90s due to growing awareness about cancer causing agents such as tobacco. One in seven deaths worldwide will be cancer related, making the work that The American Cancer Society does all the more relevant.
Alpha Phi Omega member Daryn Clevesy lost her father to cancer when she was just seven years old.
“[Cancer] affects us all. These events are really heartwarming. It’s awesome to see all those affected, together and walking in silence in remembrance,” Clevesy said. “It’s emotional in a good and bad way.”
Junior McKenzie Baker, an event chair for Relay for Life, has been volunteering for the organization for seven years. Baker said that students on campus are always open to volunteering for the event and that there is limited advertising due to the high level of enthusiasm.
Dickey works with several different institutions, from elementary schools to universities to focus on prevention, whether it is through exercise and nutrition or administering information about tobacco. Dickey talked about how the life lessons that are passed down to each generation about living a healthier lifestyle can help in preventing cancer. According to her, there has been a lot of progress in the Relay for Life program and she has seen that students are now looking for events throughout New Hampshire and the country.
“This event is my favorite because of the energy and support from the students on campus with entertainment and sharing their talents. You can’t beat that. The students on the student committee are unbelievable. Sky’s the limit. They’re amazing. Everybody getting together… it’s impressive,” Dickey said.