Relay For Life Smashes Fundraising Record
“That word: cancer. Take out the ‘cer,’ and we can. We can find a cure.”
These were the words of Head Basketball Coach Patrick Chambers who kicked off Relay For Life of Penn State 2013 on Saturday afternoon. Relay For Life is a 24-hour walk-a-thon to benefit the American Cancer Society for cancer research and patient services. This year was the ninth Relay on Penn State’s campus, and it was certainly one to remember.
After Chambers finished his passionate, energetic speech to a packed house, 26 survivors of cancer — ranging from age 8 to 70 — walked the first lap to celebrate their victory against cancer.
Each year, Relay events occur in over 120 countries with more than 4 million participants worldwide. This year, Penn State recorded 136 teams with 1,772 participants — far more than ever before. Teams raised funds throughout the year, and when it came time for the big weekend, participants pitched their tents and had one team member walking the track at all times.
The fundraiser began on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park and ended exactly 24 hours later. The event is put together by about 90 student volunteers with the help of the Centre County Region American Cancer Society and the State College Spikes.
Throughout Saturday afternoon, student performance groups and bands took to the stage to get the crowd excited for the rest of the weekend. The Fundraising committee and Entertainment committee created games and fundraisers for participants to help increase donation levels.
Students played games like “Don’t Forget The Lyrics” and “$100-in-an-hour,” which required three contestants to run around the stadium, make phone calls, and get donations from strangers to reach $100 in 60 minutes.
At 8:30, the Luminaria ceremony began with a presentation that honored loved ones we have lost to cancer. Throughout the year and during Relay weekend, the Luminaria committee sold white paper bags that were decorated with the names and faces of loved ones who've battled the disease. At night, candles were lit inside the bags to give light and, ultimately, to give hope.
Jay Paterno took the stage and gave a remarkable speech about hope and the search to find a cure. He spoke of his father’s illness and how support from the Penn State community helped him cope. Paterno told a story about visiting his father’s grave on the way from his house to the event because, as he said, Saturday was Joe’s day. He was reminded of the candles lit for months in honor of his father, and compared the Luminaria lined around the infield to the shining lights he saw during a dark time.
During the night, the Spirit Committee put together games to keep everybody awake. In addition, participants were able to pick a movie to play on the scoreboard by donating loose change to the movie of their choice.
As the sun rose over Medlar Field -- the track still packed with walkers -- the “Fight Back” ceremony began. Fundraising Overall Chairperson Maria Shevchik delivered words of inspiration and encouragement to remind the crowd about what they were fighting for.
Soon enough, it was time for the closing ceremony and the final reveal. Kathryn Kehoe, the Greek Recruitment and Involvement Co-Overall, gave a moving speech about her mother’s passing due to cancer, and how she found a support system in joining Relay For Life of Penn State.
Earlier in the year, the Overall Committee set a fundraising goal of $70,000. It was surpassed on April 4. The next goal was to make $100,000. It was surpassed on April 11. One more goal before the weekend started was the record: $109,500.
That number was reached before the event had even begun on Saturday.
From then on, the Overall Committee decided to make a pact: no one would look at the total until it was revealed on Sunday during the closing ceremony. No one was quite ready for the number that was shown at 2 p.m.
An astonishing $137,602.59 was the number displayed across the scoreboard and on the golden and black numbers held up by the Overall Committee members. This was double the amount raised last year and over $28,000 more than the record set at the 2010 event. And there was still more money to be counted.
Relay For Life is a year-long fundraiser that culminates in a weekend full of hope; the hope that a cure for cancer will be found. This year, the Overall Committee, its captains, and the Penn State community brought us one step closer.
image Karen Marchuska