Students streamed into Payne Whitney Gymnasium on Friday evening, but not for the usual athletic activities. Instead, the nearly 100 attendees gathered for Relay for Life, which lasted from 6 p.m. until midnight.
Relay for Life, a national event held annually on high school and college campuses, aims to raise money and awareness for cancer research. Relay for Life’s New Haven event was organized by the Yale chapter of Colleges Against Cancer in collaboration with the American Cancer Society. Proceeds of the event go to the ACS and to funding cancer research at Yale. While this year’s turnout was considerably smaller than last year’s, Relay for Life organizers still deemed the event successful. The event capped off a year of fundraising that earned about $13,000, which amounted to half of Yale’s goal for the year, Relay for Life Community Manager Ericka Ganley said.
“The mood was great and I actually feel like I got to know more people because of the intimacy,” Ganley said. “It was good to see a lot of really good things happen throughout the event.”
Some of the highlights included an opening speech about cancer research and prevention by Yale Cancer Center Deputy Director Daniel DiMaio, bubble soccer and décor and activities inspired by this year’s Olympic theme, Ganley said.
In previous years, Yale’s Relay for Life has lasted from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., but it was shortened this year to condense attendance and coordinate better with students’ busy schedules, Event Co-Chair Thomas Tolton ’16 said.
“We thought it was better to have a shorter, more substantial fun-filled event from 6 to midnight,” Tolton said. “[This year] there’s not really the sparsely populated times we used to have; we have a good critical mass of people pretty much the whole time.”
There were about 30 students in the gym at any given point, most talking in groups or walking the track. Tolton attributed the decreased turnout to multiple other events happening Friday night, Relays being held at other nearby universities and the business of this time of year.
“There’s always a huge fundraising push the week before Relay that happens every year, which is great,” former event co-chair Danielle Currin ’16 said Friday. “Over the last week — even over the past few hours — we’ve raised so much compared to similar time periods in past weeks and months.”
The event included a Luminaria ceremony, when attendees walked a silent lap with the lights off in honor of individuals they know affected by cancer. Following the lap, attendees were encouraged to share their personal experiences about relatives and friends fighting cancer. More than 10 spoke in front of the crowd.
Members of Kappa Kappa Gamma and the women’s basketball and hockey teams volunteered at the event, Ganley said. Staff illustrator for the News Zishi Li ’18, a member of Kappa, described the Relay as “very touching.”
Also contributing to the more personal feel of the event, were individuals such as the general manager of New Haven’s Shake Shack, who came to personally scoop custard for attendees, and a local cancer survivor named Fred who has stopped by Relay for multiple years.
“I like how people can come together for a cause,” attendee Mari Kawakatsu ’18 said. “It’s important to spend time just thinking about how hurt people can be and how people are going through such tough things.”
Planning for next year’s event began immediately after Friday’s Relay, Tolton said. The first steps include evaluating this year’s event and brainstorming how to improve, then thinking of committees and chairs before their winter kickoff event, he added.
After assigning leadership roles, the volunteers can prepare to begin outreach efforts within the first few weeks of the fall semester, Ganley said.
“We hope that maybe we can make some more connections and just keep building off of things,” Ganley said. “We have to get a good leadership in place and then we’ll be good to go.”
This was Relay for Life’s 11th year at Yale.