Finishing the fight against against cancer

Rely for Life hosts longest cancer-fighting party on Grounds

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The Relay for Life opening ceremony started at 6 p.m. and featured Mary Ann Wasil, CEO of the Get In Touch Foundation, and Jim Todd, a Batten professor. The speakers discussed the importance of raising money and participating in events, such as Relay For Life, sponsored by the American Cancer Society.

Photo provided by Katie Bailey

Ashley Self was a junior in high school when her mother was diagnosed with brain cancer, beginning a battle with the disease which eventually claimed her life. Now a third-year nursing student, Self participates in Relay for Life to create a positive change in light of this tragedy.

“I came to U.Va. confused and lost — and I joined Relay,” Self said. “It was a place where I could channel that negative experience with something positive, and give back to other people who are currently fighting the disease — and do it for my mom,” Self said.

Saturday marked Relay for Life’s annual 12-hour charity fundraiser, which lasted from 6. p.m. to 6 a.m. in Memorial Gym. Sponsored by the American Cancer Society , the event raises money for cancer research, education programs, advocacy and services for cancer patients.

“Most people think that Relay is a run,” said Co-Event Chair Katie Bailey, a third-year Architecture student . “It is not a run — it is an all-night party. It is the longest cancer-fighting party on Grounds.”

The event’s opening ceremony featured Mary Ann Wasil, CEO of the Get In Touch Foundation, and Batten Prof. Jim Todd. Performances by groups such as the Hullabahoos and Tae Kwon Do club provided entertainment every 15 minutes.

The Luminaria and Fight Back Ceremony lent a somber tone to the event. At 10 p.m., the track was lined with luminaries in honor and memory of friends and family who have been affected by cancer. Four hours later, Relay for Life members spoke about the importance of committing to finish the fight against cancer, showing a video from Katie Couric who shared why it was important to support Relay for Life.

“I’ve been participating for the last four years and watching [Relay for Life] grow has been amazing,” said Co-Event Chair Kelly Sullivan, a fourth-year College student. “It has brought together such an array of people. Everyone is in it for the right reasons and they are so passionate about it. Cancer touches everyone. This is a unique organization where you can turn a negative thing into something great.”

More than 1,400 people registered for the event Saturday, which raised a total of $164,522.77. Relay for Life is continuing to raise money until August on its website. Next year, the organization aims to attract more than 1,500 participants to raise a grand total of $165,000.

“This year was a year of milestones — we set new participant and fundraising records,” Bailey said. “We hit our one million cumulative fundraising total over spring break and have gained national recognition from the ACS.”

In addition to the 12-hour event in the spring, the group hosts Concert for a Cure and a 5K in the fall. Members also participate in bake sales and bar nights to raise money.

“The purpose [of Relay for Life] on Grounds is to bring together the U.Va. community and provide a support network here and to honor members and fight back for all those who have been affected,” Sullivan said.

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