Almost every hand in the room shot up at the Relay for Life rally Tuesday night when the speaker asked how many had been touched by cancer. After all, each of the co-chairs organizing the relay, which will take place this spring for the first time at Yale to raise money for the American Cancer Society, had his or her own personal story to share.

“My mother is a nine-year cancer survivor, and my grandmother was just diagnosed this year; that is why I became involved,” said Stephanie Smith ’07, the president of College Against Cancer and co-chair of Yale’s Relay for Life.

The Relay for Life rally, held in Davies Auditorium last night, was designed to spark interest in the relay, which will take place on the Yale track starting at 4 p.m. April 9, and running through the night until April 10 at noon.

The money raised for the American Cancer Society will be used for research advocacy, survivor support and cancer education. The organizers of the relay said their goals involve outreach to both Yale and New Haven.

“Besides fund-raising, our goal is to celebrate survivorship,” Smith said. “We want to show people at the Yale Cancer Society that we care. There is an on-campus educational aspect for raising awareness as well as a component in the larger community.”

Relay for Life was founded in 1985 by Dr. Gordy Klatt, an American Cancer Society volunteer who was overcome by the loss of a friend to cancer and began to organize events where teams of people took turns walking all night to raise money for cancer research.

The relay is coming to Yale because several students, all deeply touched by cancer, heard of the event being held in other communities and felt that their school could do something to help, said Caroline Edsall ’06, one of the event’s co-chairs.

The co-chairs held an initial rally in November, where they formed sub-committees to organize each part of the event. The organizers are planning a candle-lighting ceremony, which will serve as both a memorial for those who died of cancer and a celebration of cancer survivors, Edsall said.

In addition, a food and beverages committee is hoping to receive donations from local banks and restaurants to keep participants going through the night.

The Relay for Life, held in over 4,200 communities in the United States and on over 50 college campuses, has developed into the world’s largest fund-raising event, Edsall said. At Yale, organizers have set a target fund-raising goal of about $20,000 — a figure they hope to expand in future years.

“We are certain to see results because people were really receptive at our first rally,” said Marcus Haymon ’05, another co-chair. “We have a pretty extensive team recruitment committee, and we are getting a great response.”

The co-chairs said they are confident the event will be successful because Yale students are enthusiastic for extra-curricular and volunteer activities.

“This is a pretty personal cause, and I’m excited that so many of you share this understanding of cancer,” Smith said.