By CAMILLE BOND ’17
The indoor track at the MIT Johnson Athletic Center came to life on Saturday, March 8 as Wellesley and MIT co-hosted their third annual Relay for Life. A total of 65 teams, encompassing nearly 900 participants, registered for the all-night walkathon to raise money for the American Cancer Society. Participants raised $79,396, surpassing their yearly fundraising goal of $70,000 before the event even began.
The event began with the “Survivors’ Lap,” in which cancer survivors present at the event completed one lap around the track amid cheers from fellow participants. After the initial lap, other participants joined in. A steady flow of movement continued around the track from the beginning of the “Survivors’ Lap” to the end of the event at 5 a.m. The non-stop nature of the event is meant to symbolize the constant struggle against cancer.
The walkers did pause to participate in the Luminaria and Fight Back ceremonies. Catherine Anderson ’17 of the Wellesley field hockey team opened the 11 p.m. Luminaria ceremony, a remembrance of loved ones lost to cancer, with a speech about her own experience with cancer. She thanked her fundraising team, comprised of the Wellesley field hockey team, for its support.
Anderson’s speech addressed her personal struggle with cancer, which has affected the the lives of many organizers and volunteers.
“My mom, a former Wellesley professor, passed away from cancer when I was 13 and that is a very difficult thing to carry,” said Genevieve Rogers ’16, one of the co-chairs of Wellesley’s Relay for Life planning committee. “I find that taking my grief and turning it toward activism makes me feel extremely happy and fulfilled. There is no feeling quite like the one that follows hearing the story of a survivor.”
The 11 hours of the Relay were interspersed with performances and activities. Many participants joined in a life-sized game of Monopoly and played on tiles designed by Wellesley Relay for Life members as part of this year’s Monopoly theme.
Several a cappella groups performed at Relay, including the Wellesley and MIT Toons and MIT’s Syncopasian. Dance groups held performances and interactive sessions, while MIT Bhangra, an Indian dance group, and Wellesley Hawaiian Dance each hosted short dance lessons.
Dinner was catered by popular chain restaurants like Qdoba and Subway and served at 10 p.m.
Teams from MIT and Wellesley set up fundraising booths around the edges of the track. Wellesley’s Taiwanese Culture Organization sold egg tarts and pineapple buns and the MIT women’s openweight crew team challenged participants to race each other on rowing machines. MIT sophomore Zach Uhlenhuth of the A Entry Alpha Dogs, an MIT residence hall that hosted a bake sale at the event, described the care that went into the fundraiser.
“We were up all night last night making this stuff,” Uhlenhuth explained, “so we’re pretty proud of the spread.”
In previous years, Wellesley and MIT hosted independent Relay for Life events, but the American Cancer Society, which oversees Relay for Life events, paired the two schools up to work together for the last three events. According to Rogers, the joint event draws a larger crowd but requires more work to organize.
“Coordinating an event this big between two schools is no small feat,” Rogers said. “We’ve learned a lot about the importance of communication and idea sharing.”
March 8 was neither the end nor the beginning of the Relay planning committee’s work. The committee has organized many events over the course of the year to benefit the American Cancer Society, including a trivia night and a cancer activism week, which was coordinated with the Blue Cancer Society.