"Celebrate, remember, fight back"

UB hosts Relay for Life in Alumni Arena

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The Spectrum

As attendees slowly piled into Alumni Arena, there was a solemn sense of hope in the air. The crowd remembered those who lost loved ones while honoring those who overcame one of life's hardest battles.

Relay For Life had begun.

Students, faculty and the UB community came together on Friday for a 24-hour event to raise money for the fight against cancer. Eighty-seven teams and 1,237 participants came together and raised $54,785.58, according to the Relay For Life website.

Relay For Life is an overnight fundraising event in which teams camp out around a track. Each year, over 4 million people in over 20 countries take part in the all-night walk, according to relayforlife.com.

Members took turns walking around the track made up of luminaria bags, which are candles or glow sticks placed inside decorated paper bags, commemorating those who lost the battle to cancer and recognizing those who survived.

The night consisted of a number of events that kept everyone up on their feet and having a good time. Participants enjoyed a special performance from the UB Dazzlers, three-legged races, frozen t-shirt contests, musical chairs, a scavenger hunt and a chance to participate in a one-of-a-kind Zumba session with all of their teammates.

Kaylee Rizzari, a sophomore legal studies and psychology major and member of the UB Dazzlers, enjoyed dancing with her teammates. While her team came together "last minute," the Dazzlers were able to raise close to $600 for the event.

"Everyone knows someone whose life has been affected by cancer," Rizzari said. "We wanted to support the fight against cancer. We had a really great time and plan on participating every year."

Sarah Narkiewicz, a freshman occupational therapy major, enjoyed being on the Relay For Life committee. She thought the event turned out great. While it was Narkiewicz's first year on the committee, she hopes to get more students involved next year.

Relay for Life began in May 1985, when Dr. Gordy Klatt walked around a track for 24 hours in Tacoma, Wash., and raised $27,000 for cancer research. The following year, 340 people came to join Klatt at the track. Since then, the movement has "grown into a worldwide phenomenon, raising more than $4 billion to fight cancer," according to relayforlife.com.

There are three key components to the Relay For Life event, which makes it different from other fundraising events.

First is the survivor's lap. As the Relay event began, survivors were advised to come to the front of the arena for all of the participants to see. Dressed in their purple "survivor" shirts, children and adults gathered together as the room roared with applause. The survivors held onto a large banner, celebrating their victory over cancer, as they took the first lap around the arena. Onlookers continued cheering and clapping for the entire first lap.

The luminaria ceremony was a chilling moment for everyone at the event. The luminaria bags lining the track were lit up and the rest of the lights slowly dimmed. A hush fell over the arena, which had been overflowing with celebration.

For Alyssa Hariprashad, a junior exercise science major, the luminaria ceremony is her favorite part of Relay For Life.

"I think it's amazing that they take out part of the night to remember everyone who has battled against cancer even if they did not win their battle," Hariprashad said.

Hariprashad participated in Relay For Life throughout high school because it was a popular event within her community. Now, Hariprashad participates to support her roommates who have lost family members to cancer and helped plan Relay For Life at UB.

"This has been the best relay event I have been to because each and every one of the participants were extremely engaged and it was well organized," Hariprashad said.

Later in the night, the fight back ceremony took place. This emotional ceremony inspires and encourages everyone to take action in the fight against cancer.

In between the main events, participants enjoyed "themed laps." The committee created an overall Disney theme for the event this year, and each lap called for different clothing attire, all of which fell under the Disney theme. The "Mad Hatter Lap" consisted of participants wearing hats, wigs and headbands. The "Colors of the Wind Lap" had participants in bright colors and tie-dye clothing. The "Hercules" lap had everyone walking around the track in muscle tees.

Around the track, teams put together different types of sales for some last-minute fundraising at the event. Participants could exchange dollar bills for "relay bucks," which allowed them to purchase anything teams might be selling. Popcorn, cups of mud and desserts were big hits.

Participants could pay five relay bucks to put a friend in jail and other participants paid three relay bucks to get their friends out of jail. Other teams set up booths where relay bucks bought a massage from the UB physical therapy students or a manicure from the Dazzlers.

Teams are already looking forward to next year's relay event. The committee starts planning for the next year's relay as soon as the current one ends, according to Megan Rosen, a junior biological sciences major.

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