Relay For Life event kickoff fundraises, answers questions

Photo credit: Lauren Kuykendall.

Tuesday night, the K-State Relay For Life Committee held their annual Early Bird event to help answer people’s questions and facilitate team sign-ups for the upcoming Relay For Life, scheduled for April 25, 2014.

Maggie Stephens, graduate student in community development and event co-chair, said that all participants in the Relay For Life are being encouraged to raise at least $100. All money will go to the American Cancer Society to help fund cancer research and also provide services to cancer patients and their families around the world.

In addition to providing registration help and answering questions, the kickoff event gave people planning to participate in the Relay For Life the chance to get some instruction and tips on how to fundraise.

Stephens said the kickoff event was held to help give people who are extremely passionate about Relay For Life an early start in fundraising and organizing their teams. Historically, not many people have shown up the Relay’s kickoff events, but Stephens said the committee still wanted to have it this year.

“In the past, this event has not been very successful, because let’s face it, college students aren’t exactly thinking however many months in advance,” Stephens said. “But there are a few people, like these great people here, that are really dedicated to the cause, and we didn’t want to kind of just dismiss their enthusiasm.”

Stephens said the early bird event is held in October because it allows those who are planning ahead to raise more money, which then allows the K-State Relay For Life to give more money back to the American Cancer Society.

Stephens and her sister Molly, who have co-chaired the event for the past two years, said this year’s event was easier for them to coordinate than before. Even so, Stevens said Early Bird takes about a month to plan, which includes time taken to promote the event and get everything going.

Luminaria bags were sold at the kickoff event. Alicia Hampton, junior in agricultural education, explained that these are paper bags that are bought and decorated by participants in honor of someone who has either won or lost the fight against cancer. The bags are sold as fundraisers and count toward the $100 goals of the teams.

“We light candles, and then we light them all at once, and then we do a walk in memory of those who have been honored,” Hampton said. “It’s a really emotional part of the night. A lot of people do them in memory of people they know who’ve passed away, so they’re really sentiment to a lot of people.”

The bags were sold at the Early Bird event for $10 to anyone interested. Hampton said this was done because occasionally people do not want to participate but still want to honor someone they know. Teams can also sell the luminarias.

Hampton said the luminarias are a big part of the Relay For Life and carry deeper symbolic meaning for many of those participating.

“It’s a symbol of the light that won’t go out,” Hampton said.

In many Relay For Life events, sand is used to weigh down the luminarias as they line whichever track the Relay For Life is being held at, Hampton said. Last year, though, the K-State Relay For Life decided to do a can drive to help make the Relay For Life cheaper by avoiding the need to purchase sand. This allows the K-State Relay For Life to give more money back to the ACS and also helps K-state give back to the community canned food bank.

Miranda Burns, junior in entrepreneurship, said she’s always had a passion for philanthropic events. She got involved with the Relay For Life because her roommate her freshman year was part of the committee, and said that once she got involved, she loved it.

“One of my favorite parts is the luminaria ceremony, just because it gives you an emotional connection to those who didn’t survive cancer,” Burns said. “It gives you a chance to honor those who didn’t survive.”

Stephens said she has seen the amount of money raised by the K-State Relay For Life rise over the years.

“I think the first year that I did it, we raised like $30,000,” Stephens said. “And that’s increased by about five [thousand dollars] each year that I’ve done it.”

Stephens said her sister Molly has helped the Relay For Life on campus become increasingly more prominent while she’s seen it grow into something people actually look forward to each year.

“I think that last year I saw a huge increase, not just in participation, but in interaction with the organization on campus,” Stephens said. “We kind of hope that legacy will continue.”

Shelton grew up in the desert southwest. A native of Lancaster, California, he mostly grew up in south Phoenix, Arizona; Austin, Texas; and Colorado Springs, Colorado before moving to Kansas and graduating from Junction City High School. He started working as a news writer for the Collegian in 2009 before taking a three-year break from college. He returned to K-State in 2013 and has since worked for the news desk, feature desk, as a copy editor and now as a sports writer. He enjoys tap dancing, writing anything possible, reading court opinions and watching Arizona Coyotes hockey.