This year’s Relay for Life took place at Southern Oregon University’s Raider Stadium last weekend, uniting 37 different teams and 420 participants against a common foe, cancer.
The 24-hour event opened with an inspirational ceremony, followed by the cancer survivor’s lap, the Luminaria ceremony, and the closing ceremony, in remembrance of the lives that cancer has claimed and honoring the strength of the survivors. Raising over $40,000, the superhero themed event featured live music, food, souvenirs, and an atmosphere of strength.
SOU junior Promise Grace has been participating in Relay For Life events for the past five years. Motivated by the loss of her great-grandfather, grandmother, uncle and aunt to cancer, her family has made the event an annual tradition. According to Grace, she was young when she experienced the devastation brought on by cancer, but she was affected all the same.
“It’s not something that you can go back and change,” said Grace.
She said she was inspired to see participants who haven’t lost anyone to cancer, but still support and fight for the cause.
“There’s so many people who are trying to help find a cure,” Grace said. “It further proves to me that my family’s lives didn’t go in vain.”
She said that she usually isn’t too emotional, but is always moved by the Luminaria ceremony at night.
“It lifts people’s spirits,” she said. “You can’t help but be too emotional. It’s an awesome opportunity to try to create change and community for survivors and those affected by [cancer],” she said.
Keysha Porter, an SOU sophomore, dressed up as Catwoman for the event. Although her grandmothers’ cancer experiences would be considered success stories, the experience pushed Porter to keep fighting the cause with Relay For Life for the last four years.
According to Porter, her paternal grandmother has been cancer free for ten years, but her maternal grandmother’s battle with cancer was recent, a mere two years ago. Porter said she was present when her grandmother collapsed and had to be rushed to the hospital, suffering from a neuroblastoma which resulted in removal of part of her skull. Although her grandmother is a survivor, Porter never forgot the close call.
“I wouldn’t want anyone to have to go through what I went through,” she said.
Porter said her team had earned roughly $800 dollars through private fundraisers alone.
Mackenzie Hartke, an SOU senior on the First Year Mentor Program team, walked in support of a family whose 5-year-old son is fighting cancer. According to Hartke the family is part of her family’s church group back home, and they have been close friends for years.
“It’s difficult to swallow, considering how young he is,” said Hartke. She adds that the sickness varies day to day, but he seems to be doing better.
“They’re the strongest family I know,” she said.
In the past Hartke has participated in Race For The Cure, a similar event raising awareness specifically for breast cancer.
Hartke said even though she is 3,000 miles away from the family she fights for, she wants them to know she is still thinking about them.
“It means a lot that I can help in some little way,” she said. “Even if it’s just walking around a track.”