University to co-host Relay For Life in field house

St. Thomas and St. Catherine University’s Colleges Against Cancer chapters will co-host the third annual American Cancer Society Relay for Life fundraiser in the Anderson Athletic and Recreation Complex field house Saturday, April 30.

The event was designed to celebrate the lives of those who battled cancer, remember loved ones who succumbed to cancer and fight for an end to the disease, according to Relay for Life’s website.

Sophomore co-chair Hannah Peterson said the event supports a cause “that affects all of us.”

“Most people know someone [who] has been affected by cancer, and the 12-hour walk is meant to represent their long journey,” Peterson said.

The relay will go through the night from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., symbolizing that cancer never sleeps, said junior co-chair Matthew Ellenberger.

“People register teams of [participants], and those teams have to have one person walking around the track at all times,” Ellenberger said.

Sophomore co-chair Rachel Johnson said she expects a big turnout. She said there were 43 teams and 323 participants registered as of Wednesday night.

“This is by far our biggest Relay for Life yet,” Johnson said.

St. Thomas is encouraging participants to take part in individual fundraisers at the event. These activities include face painting and a Velcro wall. All proceeds, including the $5 registration fee each participant pays, will go to the American Cancer Society.

“Relay is about remembering and honoring all those [who] have been affected by cancer, but celebrating life and having a fun night as well,” Johnson said.

Ellenberger said he anticipates donations to increase this year.

“Last year we raised $28,000,” Ellenberger said. “And this year we’re hoping to raise $35,000. So far we have $18,000 [as of Wednesday night]. Historically we’ve gotten a bunch [of donations] the night of.”

The event’s opening ceremony will feature three speakers: Neil Egar, a St. Thomas student and cancer survivor; Scott Dehm, a University of Minnesota professor and cancer researcher; and Haley Hoff, a St. Thomas student who cared for her grandmother who had cancer.

Local businesses donated gifts for prize drawings at the event, and tickets can be purchased to enter the prize drawing. Teams will also receive tickets based on the amount of money they donated.

“Its a good time, there’s always plenty to do. We have a live acoustic performer this year [singer-songwriter senior Matthew Griswold] which is pretty cool,” Ellenberger said. “We’re going to have basketball and volleyball tournaments throughout the night.”

A luminaria ceremony designed to remember loved ones affected by cancer will also take place.

“We line the track with luminarias, which are paper bags that people can write on in memory of someone who’s died of cancer, or in memory of someone who has survived,” Ellenberger said. “This year because we’re inside, we’re using glow sticks.”

If students want to participate in activities during the night and are not already registered, they can pay $5 to the Relay for Life cause and receive a wristband.

“It is a lot of fun,” Johnson said. “And the experience of attending a relay has made a strong and positive impact on everyone I know who has gone to one in the past.”

Carly Samuelson can be reached at