For 12 straight hours, more than 1,200 USC students were joined together in a walk against cancer around Blatt Field in USC’s Relay For Life event on Friday. The event, which lasted from 5 p.m. until 5 a.m. Saturday, is the main fundraising event for the American Cancer Society, which provides research and services for cancer patients in 27 countries. In 12 hours, the students raised $158,061 for The American Cancer Society as they walked around the field in celebration and memory of those who have won, lost or are still fighting their battles against cancer.
Relay For Life, which is a student-run event, is a year-long fundraiser. The executive team of student leaders has been working for a full year on mini-fundraisers and advocacy for this event in order to spread the word about not only the event itself, but also about the American Cancer Society and how the money raised at Relay For Life will be used.
“I wish more people knew what all The American Cancer Society offers,” says junior K.C. Ward, Director of Finance and Production. “A lot of people think the money we raise is going to the wrong places, well it goes straight to research and patient care.” For example, K.C. explained, The American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge offers cancer patients and their caregivers a free place to stay when they have to travel for treatment. ACS also provides 24/7 phone support that patients can call whenever they need help or have questions about a diagnosis or treatment.
The students gathered around the front stage to listen to K.C. and co-director of community outreach Matt Bozarth speak during the opening ceremony. Their speeches were inspiring and emphasized the importance of the mission to end cancer as everyone is in some way affected by cancer, whether it be personally, their family member or their friend. Matt also read a beautiful poem which set the mood as USC mascot Cocky led the first walk around the field.
Many students were participating in Relay For Life for the first time, while many other have been participating for almost their whole lives. No matter if it was their first time or their 10th time participating, everyone agreed that participating in the event was a way to fight for those who have lost their battles or are still fighting against cancer and to honor anyone who has ever been affected by or have survived this awful disease. Each participant in Relay For Life symbolizes a victim or a survivor of cancer in a beautiful way as they walked around the field for 12 hours.
“I am a cancer survivor of almost 20 years,” Matt expains. “Being able to facilitate a community like this is really…nothing is comparable. Knowing that I have this kind of community around me is really one of a kind.” Matt, knowing this cause is so personal to him, worked alongside co-director K.C. all year to put on the best Relay For Life event possible for everyone involved.
The students participated as teams, which each set up their own tent around the track with various games, activities, snacks or drinks that could be purchased for cash donations, using a ticket system. Students pay a $20 registration fee to participate in Relay For Life, but this was another, creative way that the students were able to raise money for The American Cancer Society while the event was going on. Each team was sure to have at least one team member on the field at all times while the rest of the team members were dispersed amongst all of the tents playing games and eating snacks for the entire 12-hour time span.
Saturday at 5 a.m., the students completed their walk around the Blatt Field. For 12 hours, the students never stopped or slept, just as cancer patients never stop and just as cancer itself never sleeps. K.C., Matt, the executive board and all of the students who participated successfully raised $158,061 for The American Cancer Society, making a huge push forward in the fight against cancer. This money will go directly towards research and all of the amazing patient services that ACS provides.