Fourth Relay for Life held to benefit cancer research

Marleen Rodriguez

Marleen Rodriguez

While many students may stay up late studying for finals week, one event at SDSU will ask students to pull an entirely homework-free all-nighter to benefit the cancer community.

For the fourth consecutive year, SDSU’s Colleges Against Cancer is sponsoring the event Relay For Life in hopes of raising $30,000 by April 24. All proceeds entirely benefit the American Cancer Association, which provides funding for cancer research.

“We go out there for the night and really try to represent those that couldn’t make it,” said Tanner Johnson, a faithful Relay contributor who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma at the early age of 6.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Relay for Life. The event is set to start on April 24 at 5 p.m. at the Campanile Green, which is located directly behind the South Dakota Art Museum. It will end at 5 a.m. on April 25.

Family, friends, students, survivors and everyone else is encouraged to bring their chairs, sleeping bags, tents and radios and partake in a night packed with activities, including: music, food, games, laps around the track, remembering loved ones and celebrating those who have battled and survived cancer.

This year’s ’80s theme centers around the motto “Beat It! Get Physical with Cancer!” Participants will get the opportunity to dress up and to perform in talent shows and an open mic time. Males have a shot at taking home the coveted title of Mr. Relay.

Currently, 44 teams, including 369 participants, have helped raise over $20,000. Organizers said they hope Friday’s goal of $30,000 will be reached with the participation and help of all others wishing to contribute to a cause which has affected many.

The American Cancer Association reported that one in three people will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetime. In 2008 alone, 1,437,180 people were diagnosed and 565,650 died from the disease in the U.S.

“The challenge that Relay for Life poses is getting people educated on what Relay is, what cancer is, how the American Cancer society can help,” said Carrie Delvaux, chair of Relay for Life and president of Colleges Against Cancer. “People hear the word cancer, but do they really know what it means?”

Delvaux has been a key player in helping organize the event and overseeing the preparation in her third year. Her involvement began when SDSU alumna Molly Fendrich decided to form the university’s chapter of Colleges Against Cancer. The group has been an outlet for support to survivors, victims and anyone who can relate.

“Survivors often think they’re alone, and Relay is a way to come together and fight,” said Delvaux.

Although Delvaux has never been diagnosed with cancer, she has lost family members to the disease.

“[My involvement] was a personal thing,” said the agricultural journalism major. “In my family, people have had [cancer], and they have died. I feel this is something everyone can relate to.”

Delvaux and other participants will commemorate lost loved ones and even survivors during what Delvaux considers to be one of the most emotional activities of Relay for Life. During the Luminaria Ceremony, everyone is given a white paper bag in which a candle is lit. The name of the cancer victim with a picture decorates the outer front side. The lighted bags are aligned to form a track, and a song is sung in memory of those that have perished.

There is no deadline to register for the event, and registration costs $10 per person. Anyone interested can visit the Facebook group Colleges Against Cancer at South Dakota State University or the Web site

“Even if people haven’t been affected, they need to realize how many lives the disease claims,” Johnson said. “If we can find a cure, we can bring an end to cancer. Every dollar makes a difference. Get out there, donate and participate, whether it rains or snows.”