On Friday, Boston College’s Relay for Life raised a total of $133,768.13 for the American Cancer Society (ACS). The 12-hour event, from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., is intended to symbolize a cancer patient’s battle. All proceeds go to the ACS’s efforts, which include research grants to discover a cure, patient support programs, treatment, the building of Hope Lodges where patients and their caregivers can stay, and other efforts to fight cancer.
This year at BC, 83 teams, totaling 925 participants, raised money for the event. The top fundraising team was “Ruby Twosday,” which raised $26,682. Emma Goodwin, a member of the team and LSOE ’18, was the top individual fundraiser, raising $17,680 and setting a new BC record. BC’s Relay is also recognized by the ACS as one of the top collegiate relays in the country, and celebrated its 10th Relay for Life with Friday’s event.
The Opening Ceremony featured Lori Earl and Queenie Santos. Earl founded This Star Won’t Go Out, an organization that supports families with children fighting cancer, after her own daughter Esther Earl died of cancer. Esther was one of the inspirations for John Green’s novel, The Fault in Our Stars. She spoke about her daughter’s fight with cancer and impact her fight had on the people around her.
“So I know all of you in this room carry your own stories. Some of you have lost someone to cancer, others of you are survivors,” Earl said. “Some of you are facing cancer right now and don’t know what the future holds, or know someone who is. And so you know that loving and caring for someone with a cancer diagnosis can be hard, but it is also the greatest privilege in the world.”
Queenie Santos spoke next. She is a breast cancer survivor and the director of the Boys and Girls Club of Dorchester. Her decades-long service to her community earned her the New England Women’s Leadership Award, and she spoke of her own experience with cancer.
“A few years ago, you could not tell me that I would ever be called strong or brave, but then I was diagnosed Stage III bilateral breast cancer. I was shocked, as it was the thing that most people didn’t want to hear: cancer,” she said. “It was just so unexpected and hard for me. I think that my family took it much harder. They were frozen with fear at first, but then they quickly became my biggest supporter[s] and joined me in the fight.
“The strength instilled in me as a child came into play and I found the power I never knew existed in me. For the first time in my life I couldn’t run away from what I was scared of or terrified of. I had to stand up to face it head on, and to fight.”
Her own struggles have motivated her to carry on the fight for others now facing a cancer diagnosis.
During the event, members of the teams walked around the track in the Plex, with at least one member expected to be walking during the entire event. Several dance groups, such as BC Irish Dance, BC Dance Ensemble, Dance Organization of BC, and Full Swing, and a cappella groups, including the Bostonians and the Acoustics, provided entertainment for all those gathered throughout the night.
The Relay For Life organization began planning the event in July, and the executive board of the organization manages a team of around a 100 to plan the event. For each one of them, there are things that make to work worth it. For Leah Nowak, co-president and CSOM ’18, it is the Luminaria Ceremony, held at 10 p.m., where the lights are turned off and the track is lined with lit-up bags bearing the name of someone who is fighting, or has fought, cancer. For Izzy Demontigny, co-president and CSON ’19, it is the Fight Back Ceremony, which shows that the fight against cancer continues and that those fighting will not give up. Beyond the ceremony, it is also seeing what their work does that inspires them.
“We definitely see everything come together too when we go to the Hope Lodge and serve cancer patients either dinner or breakfast and we talk to them,” said Brittany Hopkins, co-president and CSOM ’18. “And they say how grateful they are for what we’ve done for them, and just kinda without these funds, their being at the Hope Lodge and receiving their life-saving treatment wouldn’t be possible.”
Featured Image by Anthony Rein / Assoc. News Editor