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Relay raises money, honors survivors

GABRIELLE LEITNER
UNI students gather in the McLeod Center alongside alumni and community members to participate in Relay for Life on Saturday, April 8 in an effort to raise money for the American Cancer Society.

ALLISON MAZARELLA, Staff Writer

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UNI students, alumni and community members joined together this past Saturday, April 8, at the McLeod Center for Relay for Life of UNI, a 10-hour fundraising event held through the American Cancer Society.

The event, which was held from 2:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m., integrated UNI with the Cedar Falls community in an effort to remember those whose lives have been lost to cancer and to honor survivors. Relay for Life serves as the signature fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, and there are versions of the event in more than 5,200 communities and 27 countries, according to the event’s website.

Relay for Life is made possible by volunteers.  UNI students volunteer their time and are organized within committees according to various tasks to help plan the event.

“We have an executive board and, basically, we plan all year,” said Makayla Dobney, member of the executive board. “We have meetings every Wednesday discussing things we have to do, like sponsors and game planning. There’s a lot that goes into it.”

Marie Angier, a junior theatre design and production major, participated in the event on Saturday because she herself is a cancer survivor.

“It’s a good way to give back,” Angier said.  

In order to give back, Dobney and the executive board had a set of goals in mind for the event.

“We have number goals,” Dobney said. “We have a participant goal of 1,000, and a team goal of 100.  We want to make a difference for a lot of people.  We want it to be an event where any and all are welcome and can come and just share their feelings of their fight against cancer.”

The event was made up of volunteer teams. Team members took turns walking throughout the span of the entire event. When not walking, team members were able to participate in a variety of other events, with all the profits going to the American Cancer society.  

Throughout the course of the 10 hours, there was a survivor lap at 5:30 p.m., which is a time for all cancer survivors and caregivers to walk around the concourse. The concourse was lined with paper bags filled with lights that had been dedicated to those who had fought cancer.  

The lights were lit later in the evening for the Luminaria ceremony, which was a time of remembrance for those who had lost their lives to cancer.

“It’s probably one of the most moving ceremonies that we have,” Dobney said.

As walkers circled the concourse, those who were not walking participated in games such as life-sized foosball, cornhole and jenga.  Because the event lasted so long, participants brought blankets to camp out on whenever they weren’t walking.

Apart from the games, participants had the opportunity to bid on items such as fruit baskets and UNI basketball posters, all of which were part of a silent auction, with all the proceeds going towards the American Cancer Society.

For those not walking, a photo booth, food and merchandise were available. Haircuts were also being offered and accepted as donations.  

At the time of the opening ceremony, over 100 people were walking the concourse, around which “Why I Relay” boards were on display. These boards served as an opportunity for people to share their reasons for participating in the event.  Many of these boards listed family members, and one in particular read, “I relay to make a difference and for those I love.”

The event was one that brought people together who have in some way experienced the struggles of cancer.

“This organization and Relay for Life means a lot to me,” said UNI alum, Hilary Ronnfeldt.

Ronnfeldt, who was previously a member of the organization, lost her grandma to pancreatic cancer when she was younger. Ronnfeldt said she participated in this year’s event because she wanted to join in the effort to raise money for cancer research.

By the end of the 10-hour event, it was announced that Relay for Life of UNI raised $60,266.01 for the American Cancer Society.

“It’s always a fun event.  This event is probably the most inspirational of all that I do, just because it’s student-based, and they are so driven and committed,” said Tammy Schoonover, the community relations manager within the American Cancer Society. “This is my second year with this event. We work with students for fundraising, and we celebrate, remember and fight back.”

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Relay raises money, honors survivors