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Student group raises $50,000 for American Cancer Society

More than 800 students took part in a relay event around a campus baseball field in late April to support cancer research and other programs that help patients confronting the disease.

Elon University's chapter of Colleges Against Cancer raised more than $50,000 during its second annual "Relay For Life" event held April 25-26, 2014, to benefit the American Cancer Society.

Relay For Life programs represent the nation’s largest not-for-profit events that fundraise for cancer research and support of programs such as the Look Good, Feel Better program. Students, faculty, and staff who took part in the overnight event brought with them sleeping bags and tents to athletic fields adjacent to the Francis Center on East Haggard Avenue.

“One of the things I love the most about Relay is seeing the Elon community come together for one night to join forces in the fight against cancer,” said Elon University senior Colleen Cooper. 

Highlights of the event included eating contests, sing alongs and a luminaries ceremony where participants lined the track for a moment of silence to remember those who have faced cancer.

“I love the luminaries ceremony because it is a shocking way to see how cancer has touched the lives of so many and how close to home it hits some of your best friends," said sophomore Emily Bourke. "Hearing hundreds of glow sticks break at once gave me chills.”

Participants also heard stories from Elon University community members who have dealt with cancer. Organizers said their positive energy was infectious and motivated the hundreds of participants on 47 teams to remember why they circled the baseball field for 12 hours starting at 7 p.m. Friday and concluding shortly after sunrise Saturday morning.

“Being a participant in Relay was such a meaningful experience," said Elon junior Jennifer Lauterbach, a member of the team organized by the Student Government Association. "After only being at the event for five minutes I realized I was not only walking for my Papa, I was walking for everyone around me who had somehow been affected by the horrible sickness of cancer."

Elon University junior Laura Castro, one of the event organizers with Colleges Against Cancer, stressed the importance of making Relay for Life a light-hearted event.

“We want the atmosphere to be filled with hope," she said. "We all are walking for a world where no one will have to hear the words, ‘You have cancer.'"

Relay For Life started on Elon’s campus two and a half years ago when current seniors Danielle Prongay and Maritza Gamboa worked to form a campus Colleges Against Cancer chapter.

“Elon students are some of the most hard working, dedicated and philanthropic people I know," Gamboa said. "I knew when we had the idea to start a Colleges Against Cancer chapter and bring Relay For Life to campus we would undoubtedly receive support from the Elon community. The support we did receive, however, was more than we ever expected."

The co-executive directors hope Relay For Life continues as an annual Elon tradition. Prongay said she plans to create a team next year with her future Elon University School of Law classmates.

- Story and photos submitted by Maritza Gamboa and Danielle Prongay

Eric Townsend,
4/30/2014 9:05 AM