GVSU hosts annual Relay for Life

GVL/Luke Holmes - Relay for Life was held in the fieldhouse arena Friday, April 8, 2016.

Luke Holmes

GVL/Luke Holmes – Relay for Life was held in the fieldhouse arena Friday, April 8, 2016.

Drew Schertzer

Relay for Life is making its way to Grand Valley State University once again. This year’s event will take on a circus theme as an estimated 2,500 participants gather at the GVSU Fieldhouse. 

There will be a survivor dinner at the Fieldhouse beginning at 5 p.m. Friday, April 7. Then, the relay will start at 6 p.m. and go until 6 a.m. Saturday, April 8. All proceeds will go toward the American Cancer Society (ACS).

“Cancer doesn’t discriminate between if you’re two or 90, black or white; it is a terrible thing to have your loved one ripped away from you,” said Jessica Glessner, president of Colleges Against Cancer at GVSU. “We are one step closer to having more people survive and being able to celebrate their birthdays every year.”

The Relay for Life at GVSU has brought in more than $67,000 so far. This is more than twice as much money as they had this time last year, Glessner said. She said the organization’s goal is to reach $80,000 to give to the ACS.

The evening’s festivities will include different events and musical performances. Games of all sorts will be played throughout the night. Cotton candy and popcorn will be at every corner, and attendees will have the opportunity to throw pies at peoples’ faces. Teams will also be able to do their own fundraisers, which could lead to walking taco bars and other fun antics, Glessner said.

“It’s amazing the way students show their support for cancer research and the community,” said Rachael Zaborowski, graduate assistant for service learning at GVSU.

President Thomas Haas will kick off the opening ceremony with a speech. Then, anyone who has been affected by cancer will be celebrated.

The survivors’ lap will be the first lap of the relay, which cancer survivors will be invited to complete. The second lap will be for caregivers. During this lap, caregivers and usually the person they’ve supported can participate.

Later in the evening, the Luminaria Ceremony will be held. Glessner said in the past, this ceremony has stirred a lot of sad emotions. Participants take luminaria bags and design them with the names of deceased loved ones and possibly some of their favorite foods. All the bags are lit up to be displayed as everyone takes a silent lap around the field.

Once the events have concluded, a closing ceremony will take place to memorialize those who have been lost to cancer.

The ACS uses the money it receives in four different ways. The first is in research advocacy to find a cure for cancer. Second, the money is spent legislatively for things like banning smoking in public. Then, education services educate people on how to prevent cancer. Lastly, the rest of the money goes toward assisting people with cancer and those on the road to recovery from cancer.

“We get a lot of people saying how thankful they are that we recognize them,” Glessner said. “Many don’t like to publicize the fact that they have cancer, but when we do this, (it) takes them out from under the crowd to thank them for all that they have done.”