The basketball court of the Flynn Recreation Complex, usually filled with the squeaks and scuffles of students playing a game, was draped with purple and white streamers, brimming with music and cheers Friday night into Saturday morning. Boston College’s eighth annual Relay For Life brought in nearly 1,500 participants and almost $150,000. The event, which took place from 6 p.m. Friday until 6 a.m. Saturday, is a fundraiser hosted by the American Cancer Society.
Before the event began on Friday, the organization had raised about $142,000, and over $5,000 more was raised during the event. This money comes from credit cards, day-of registration, and matching gifts. This year’s Relay For Life reached the $1 million mark in total fundraising since the inception of the BC chapter eight years ago. It is the first university in Massachusetts and the second in New England to do so.
For the first time, the event took place in the Plex basketball court, rather than the tennis court. The walls were covered in posters: some had health tips—“Help protect your skin from cancer by being smart about sun safety”—while another, made of brown paper, impelled participants to write their reasons for joining Relay For Life on it—“I relay for my dad and grandparents.”
“The night could not have gone better, in my opinion,” said Mark Maleri, event chair of the BC Relay For Life Planning Committee and CSOM ’15. “You really have to hand it to the Entertainment Committee, the Spirit Committee, and all of the volunteers in the green shirts for never losing steam and powering through until 6 a.m.”
Maleri, who has been a Relay For Life participant since he was in eighth grade, planned the event along with co-chairs Emily Hoffman, CSOM ’15, Kristin Meehan, A&S ’15, and Claire Ritten, LSOE ’16. There were a few changes in the event this year, including a new partnership with the Volunteer and Service Learning Center. This partnership made the event more visible on campus, Maleri said, and gave the organization more resources to make Relay For Life successful. Several clubs and organizations supported the event as well, including the Residence Hall Association, Jenks Leadership Program, and Appalachia Volunteers.
It was great to see different parts of the University community come together to support the cause, Maleri said. There were several activities for participants throughout the night, including Zumba, karaoke, and raffles. The planning committee, which Maleri has been working with since September, helped to keep participants energetic throughout the 12-hour fundraiser.
The 12 hours of Relay For Life symbolize a cancer patient’s journey—the setting sun represents the cancer diagnosis, and the darkness of the night is symbolic of the emotional and physical effects of cancer. The rising sun represents a cancer-free future, with hope that there will be no remission. Joe Arquillo, LSOE ’17, attended Relay For Life for the first time at BC this year, though he had previously participated in high school.
“I liked how it was 12 hours,” Arquillo said. “You wake up into the sunrise, and its new light, new adventures ahead of you.”
Arquillo, whose grandmother died of cancer, had set up a table at which participants could write letters to people recently diagnosed with breast cancer. He and the other students manning the table encouraged participants to write a few lines of encouragement and inspiration. He hopes to continue to do this at the next Relay For Life, he said.
He noted the supportive atmosphere pervasive throughout the event, particularly during the Luminaria ceremony at 10 p.m., when participants walk the track in honor of cancer patients. He said the ceremony was very somber, and was a hard moment for many people.
“I’m not one to cry, and I was crying,” he said.
Maleri said the amount of people who stayed toward the end was meaningful. The premise of the entire event is that there are those who spend years battling cancer, so participants can stay up the whole night in solidarity.
“This is what keeps me going,” Maleri said in an email. “If just one person, either someone who has never been to Relay or some that has stopped by before, chooses to stay for longer than expected or is converted into a repeat-Relayer for future events, I couldn’t be happier.”
Featured Image by Drew Hoo / Heights Editor