Glee in times of pain
UB Glee performs at Relay with hope of spreading happiness
Approximately 400 Relay for Life attendees watched UB Glee perform and clapped along because they felt like a "room without a roof." They clapped along because they felt like "happiness is the truth."
On Friday, 1,475 participants joined together in UB's Alumni Arena to fight against cancer. They formed 88 separate teams and raised more than $55,000 for the American Cancer Society. Portions of the all-night event were painful, according to some students. But certain activities and performances throughout the evening reminded attendees happiness exists and it is real - despite how painful life can be sometimes.
UB Glee performed Pharrell Williams' "Happy" along with a few other "happy-go-lucky" tunes.
Elizabeth Restey, a senior sociology major and president of UB Glee, joined the club because she loves both singing and dancing. UB Glee was the only group on campus in which she felt she could fulfill both of those passions.
Restey enjoys the several shows UB Glee puts on each semester. But even more so, she enjoys spreading good vibes and happiness to the UB community at events like Relay.
Restey said cancer has affected almost everybody in the club at some point, whether it has touched members' friends, family members or acquaintances. She relayed for her little sister's best friend, who lost her battle to leukemia last summer.
She knew the grief many other attendees were feeling throughout the night, which encouraged her further to spread happiness.
The most painful part of the event for Maria Gomez, a senior business major, is always the silent lap, she said.
"It brings back a lot of memories of people I've cared about who passed away," Gomez said.
Gomez believes it's important to spread some sense of joy during events like Relay, because even though it's a time to remember those who have lost their battle, it's also a time to recognize those who survived.
"The community comes together for a good cause," Gomez said. "We all have one common goal, and that's to find a cure."
Like Gomez, Lizzy Lenchner, a junior psychology major, felt intense pain during the event - specifically during the Luminaria ceremony.
"It was so hard for me to hold myself together and not burst into tears," Lenchner said. "It brought back all the memories I shared with Talia [a camper of hers who passed away to cancer] and reminded me that she isn't physically here anymore."
Though Lenchner believes that pain has the ability to bring back memories and encourage people to fight even harder for a cure, she also places value in spreading joy "because it's associated with positivity," she said.
"Talia taught me to always stay positive, so it's important to spread happy to others because it symbolizes hope and strength to overcome any battle or negativity," Lenchner said. "The happiness protects us from ruminating on the pain, and allows us to keep our heads up above water and realize the significance of Relay. It keeps our focus on the goal and clearly it does a good job."
Restey believes her club successfully emanated positive emotions across its audience.
"I think 'happy' is a great new fad," Restey said. "With all the negative media outlook and poor self esteem, [spreading happy] seems to be more common now than it has been. The name of our club literally means 'happy,' and all of us are pretty good at trying to spread it."
Restey said members of the club feel ultimate happiness while singing and dancing. Because they are doing what they love, it's easier for them to make other people happy as well.
Alex Watts, a sophomore theater major and member of UB Glee, said she was not at Relay in order to commemorate or fight for one specific person. Rather, she was there with her club to support the UB community and to raise money for the American Cancer Society.
"I've always loved performing and spreading happiness while doing so," Watts said. "Performing in Glee is a great way to do [both]."
Restey said amid all the wars and conflict, the self-esteem issues in our society and especially illnesses like cancer, it's important to cherish the little things.
UB Glee's "little thing" happens to be music, she said.