Celebrating, remembering, fighting

GVL/Courtesy Peter Chhum 
The relay for life event, which was held inside the Fieldhouse, aimed to raise awarness and celebrate those who survive the disease of cancer.

GVL/Courtesy Peter Chhum The relay for life event, which was held inside the Fieldhouse, aimed to raise awarness and celebrate those who survive the disease of cancer.

Peter Chhum

More than 1,300 members of the Grand Valley State University community joined together to raise about $72,000 for the American Cancer Society during this year’s Relay for Life. As a parade of students made its way around the track in the Fieldhouse Arena, cardio was turned into currency.

The 12-hour event started at 6 p.m. on April 11 and went until 6 a.m. on April 12.

“I feel like the event is a great way to get involved for those who don’t know much about the disease and support people who have it and celebrate those who have survived,” said Jourdan Boychuk, team captain of the Laker Village team. “It also shows how important it is that this disease needs to be taken care of.”

During each hour of Relay for Life, at least one member from every team walks on the track, representing the constant fight against cancer. This year at GVSU, more than 70 teams participated.

Participants spiced up the walk with a balloon lap, a three-legged lap and a conga line at various times.

While Relay for Life offers entertainment and amusement for those who participate, the core message of the event is delivered in the customary survivors’ lap. During this portion of the event, the lights were dimmed and the track was illuminated by Luminaria bags, which were filled with a candle and personalized with a name, message and drawing in memory of a loved one affected by cancer.

As students took a break from making their rounds in remembrance, they were given a special message from Jake Jager, a cancer survivor who suffered from osteosarcoma.

“Back in September 2011, I was diagnosed with a bone tumor in my right femur. That started a year-long process throughout my junior year of high school where I was in and out of DeVos Children’s Hospital receiving chemotherapy,” Jager said. “I then had a surgery which basically replaced part of my femur with titanium, and I also had to have a knee replacement done.”

While Jager shared his personal experience with cancer, he also told the significance of the event and what it means to him as a cancer survivor.

“From a survivor’s perspective, this event is a Mecca. It’s a way for survivors to come and be recognized after what they’ve gone through,” he said. “Prior to a current prognosis, my condition would mean amputation. But this new treatment has been an amazing thing and has truly saved my life. It shows that this works, this is a proven method, and that this money truly helps. As a survivor, it’s really cool to see people all around here that are here to help people battle cancer.”

As Relay for Life serves as an interactive way for students and their families to gather in the fight against cancer, the significance of the social gathering is evoked throughout the night.

“It’s just so moving. There are so many times throughout the night that I have gotten chills or teared up,” said Maddie McTevia, committee member for College Against Cancer. “It’s sad that it’s affected so many people, but it’s also great to see that so many people have a passion to fight it. It’s something that brings everyone closer together and really makes me appreciate all the little things we have in life.”

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