In its second year of existence, the California State University, Stanislaus Relay for Life more than doubled in size, becoming a marquee event in the fight to quash cancer.
The local event follows the model of other Relays for Life around the nation, bringing supporters to a walking track to increase cancer awareness. Sited at the CSU Stanislaus quad, students, faculty, staff and the general community walked for 24 hours straight, raising money for the American Cancer Society all the while.
Last year, the on-campus relay drew 11 teams and raised about $10,000, far surpassing its goal of simply breaking even. This year, the relay again smashed its goal – increasing to a $15,000 profit – with 20 teams, more than 200 registered participants, and more than $24,000 raised for cancer research and assistance.
“That's a huge improvement,” said Kaitlin Kisling, co-chair of the event and a junior English major at CSU Stanislaus.
Last year, chair CJ Chaney, a CSU Stanislaus employee in Admissions and Outreach, organized the entire event in less than two months – without ever having attended a Relay for Life. She merely answered a call from the American Cancer Society.
“I'd never relayed before, but it just felt like something I had to be a part of,” Chaney said.
The first year was admittedly barebones, given the tight timeframe. But this year, with the help of a 13-member committee, the event ballooned into a full-on festival.
Perhaps the most immediate visual indicator of the growth were the scores of booths, each offering activities – like henna tattoos, face painting and darts – and people hawking wares like cookies, hair clips, books and even hugs. All were offered at a nominal cost, and all proceeds went to the American Cancer Society.
But all the food, drink, hair clips and hugs were free for the 24 cancer survivors attending the CSU Stanislaus Relay for Life.
“They're the reason we do this,” Kisling said. “We want to have them here and honor them.”
On-campus caterers Chartwells even provided a free survivors' breakfast buffet, rife with crepes, eggs Benedict, and numerous other goodies. The university kicked in as well, providing the quad rental free of charge, as well as numerous tents for attending groups.
Though the event was aimed at the campus community, it wasn't strictly for students and faculty. Some area organizations and businesses participated, like Brenda Athletic Club.
But, by and large, the Relay was student-centric, with theme events like a Warrior spirit lap and a late-night rave. The population offered an opportunity for networking between campus clubs and organizations like the Sigma Tau Delta International English Honors Society, the CSU Stanislaus Pre-Health club and the Theta Chi Fraternity.
Also represented – for the second consecutive year – was the CSU Stanislaus chapter of the Kappa Sigma Fraternity.
Last year, the chapter walked in honor of Kappa Sigma community service chairman Nick Hernandez’s sister, who was battling leukemia. Despite a previously scheduled early-morning initiation for new members, Hernandez had no problem convincing the full chapter to participate once initiation was complete.
But, like all participant groups, Kappa Sigma looked to have a little fun while fighting cancer. Their fundraiser: playing the viral hit song “Friday” by Rebecca Black over, and over, and over until they raise $500.
“I think it's going to be hilarious,” Hernandez said. “We're going to raise that money really quickly.”
To donate, or to sign up for information on next year's relay visit www.relayforlife.org/CSUStanCA.
For more information on the community Turlock Relay for Life, scheduled for 9 a.m. Saturday at Dutcher Middle School, visit www.relayforlife.org/turlockca.
To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail email@example.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.