About 350 St. Thomas and St. Catherine University students participated in the 27th Relay for Life in the Anderson Athletic and Recreation Complex field house.
Forty teams registered for the event, which lasted from 7 p.m. April 30 to 7 a.m. May 1, to raise money for cancer research. Participants raised $28,520, an increase from last year’s $28,000.
“I feel really good about the direction [Relay for Life] is going,” said junior Matt Ellenberger, Relay for Life co-chair and president of St. Thomas’ chapter of Colleges Against Cancer. “The numbers of participants, of funds raised, are up from previous years.”
St. Kate’s junior Taylor Schaubschlager and other members of the Colleges Against Cancer chapter teamed up with St. Thomas for the Relay for Life event. Schaubschlager, a chair of St. Kate’s Colleges Against Cancer chapter, said her main motivation to participate was her mother. Her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when Schaubschlager was in fifth grade and died in 2008.
“She battled strong the whole time,” Schaubschlager said. “It was just kind of sad because she used to come to the relay events I would plan, and she used to walk the track as a survivor, so the first one that she wasn’t there was kind of hard.”
Many students participated in the relay because they know, or knew, someone battling cancer.
“I have a friend from high school who just got diagnosed this past year,” freshman Julia Carroll said.
St. Thomas freshman Kjerste Gast also said she wanted to walk for loved ones.
“My grandpa died of brain cancer, and then my grandma had breast cancer for a while,” she said. “So I’ve done [Relay for Life] before, and I just wanted to walk for them,”
Freshman Madeline Motola said Relay for Life is an important event for her family.
“Both my grandparents and my dad have suffered through [cancer],” she said. “I just think it’s a really cool way to show your support for them and to kind of show everyone you support the cause as well.”
Ellenberger said the most inspiring moments of the event for him were the acoustic guitar performance and the luminaria ceremony, where participants dropped glow sticks into paper bags to light the field house while they walked.
“Matt Griswold played a few songs he wrote especially for Relay [for Life],” Ellenberger said. “It was really touching. I cried a little bit.”
Students started arriving at 5 p.m. to set up team “campsites” and enter their names for prize drawings. The relay started with laps from cancer survivors, caregivers and individual teams.
When participants weren’t walking, they played games such as bean bag toss and Nintendo Wii boxing and ate food provided by local restaurants. Participants could take a photo with Minnesota Vikings cheerleaders for a $1 donation. The Twins, Minnesota Wild and the Tommie mascot also made appearances at the event.
“There’s a lot to do,” freshman Krissy Atterholt said. “I’ve done the Velcro wall, I’ve played some games, eaten some pizza.”
Freshman Alex Steen agreed.
“They have a lot of activities going on, which is nice, so you’re not just sitting or just walking,” she said.
Sophomore Hannah Peterson, St. Thomas Relay for Life co-chair, helped organize relay games where teams competed against each other.
“We encouraged teams to do night-of-relay fundraisers, so not only fundraise before the event but during,” she said. “One team was making bracelets, and then another team had a jail where you could pay to have a friend locked up for a little bit and then they have to find someone to pay to get them out. Another team is doing a bake sale.”
Motola said the downtime during the relay was a perfect opportunity to meet people interested in the cause.
“A lot of [the event] is socializing with friends and everyone else who’s here,” she said.
Freshman Chantel Heeren added, “And you get to exercise, which never hurts.”
Peterson said she is grateful for participants’ continued support.
“I want to thank everyone for working so hard throughout the year. It takes a lot,” she said. “To put on something this huge, I’m just really proud.”.
Rebecca Omastiak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.