Students fundraise for Relay for Life

Photograph by Benj Salkind

On Saturday, July 21, students and their families pitched tents at the Bellevue College track field to participate in a 24-hour relay, sponsored by money raised for cancer research. Those at the event donned multicolored T-shirts to commemorate the dream of stopping cancer and to represent the bonds stitched by cancer’s treacherous toll. Bellevue citizens walked together throughout the night to remember those who have been lost and show support for those still fighting.

Cancer has struck the lives of students, family and friends throughout the world. Getting sick can come from anywhere and hurt the people we love most. BC students have not been exempt from cancer-related tragedies. Although the identification of many sicknesses have yet to be revealed and stopped for good, students can contribute to the termination of cancer by participating in programs like Relay for Life.

The inception of Relay for Life came from the mind of Dr. Gordon Klatt, a colorectal surgeon who decided to enhance the income of his local American Cancer Society house by running a 24-hour, 83-mile marathon in the name of cancer victims.
While Dr. Klatt circled the track at Baker Stadium at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, he envisioned 24-hour relay teams, which could raise even more money to fight cancer. He individually raised $27,000 with his display that year, and thus in 1985 the Relay for Life program began.

Relay has now become one of the largest non-profit activities in the world, with nearly four million participants this year. The Bellevue College relay event alone raised approximately $29,668, with the help of 35 teams and 278 relay members.

“We found out about the relay from some representatives that came in during one of our school lunches last year” said Benjamin Salkind, photographer for The Watchdog. “We decided to make muffins to sell, and they got pretty popular at school. We also managed to build up a name for our team in the relay committee after all the good fundraising, and we got to sell muffins at the relay” he said. Salkind and his team, the “Muffin Men,” have been invited to other fundraising events and achieved a position on the Relay for Life committee.

“This is my first time at relay and I’m very proud of my team and what we have accomplished,” said student Erica Sun. Sun’s group sat together in their tent, playing cards and watching survivors conquer the track.

“I’m really excited for the Luminaria Ceremony. It’s great to see the field all lit up and remember what we lost,” said fellow student Hailey Thompson, as she described the heartfelt, candle-lit ceremony. Bags are filled with sand and labeled with the names of fallen cancer victims.

The Survivors Lap and the Fight Back Ceremony are also parts of the program’s festivities. Participants cheer for survivors who circle the track and pledge commitments to personal health and cancer prevention.

Cancer awareness booths were displayed along the track to instigate the conversation about illness prevention. Unlike ordinary days in the quarter, smoking lounge enclosures were uninhabited throughout campus. Health was the priority on campus during the relay.

“I work for the American Cancer Association, and I raise money for Relay for Life at other events I attend” said Tiegan Walker, who was giving Relay participants back massages, encouraging the awareness of muscle tension. “I love seeing the results of the success stories and talking with survivors,” said Ashlee Green, another masseuse at Relay for Life.

Also on display was the Bod Pod, a technical device that measures the body fat to muscle mass composition in the body to within a tenth of a pound. Fat, behind smoking, is the second leading cause of cancer. Bod Pod representatives attended Relay for Life to discourage diet and exercise habits that contribute to an unhealthy body. “We want students to regulate their body and to make a lifelong commitment to good health before it’s too late” said Brent Stahl.

To learn how to get involved with Relay for Life, visit the page on Facebook or follow the American Cancer Society on Twitter.