Elon’s Relay for Life effort leverages Zoom events to raise $31K for cancer research

The three-day event was held this year entirely over Zoom, and featured activities, performances and speakers.

The annual Relay for Life, which collects donations for the American Cancer Society, took on a new form this year as the event shifted online due to pandemic restrictions.

Although the event may not have been in person, the messages and stories shared during the weekend were just as impactful as they have been in previous years.

Typically, Relay for Life would invite campus organizations and students to gather for a 12-hour fundraiser. The 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. event would include games, food, performances, and speakers.

“I have been participating in Relay for Life since the seventh grade,” said Executive Director Meghan O’Connell ‘21. “Now, as a college senior, I can truly say that I still got the same feeling during our virtual event that I have every other year.”

The Relay for Life team conducted all of their operations virtually, which included committee and leadership meetings.

The shift to a completely online event did not stop people from showing their support, as the event raised over $31,000 for the American Cancer Society.

After holding the event in person last year, O’Connell and her team had a lot of adjustments to make to their traditional format. While making the change was difficult, O’Connell expressed her gratitude for the benefits associated with a virtual event.

“Something that would not have been possible had we not conducted our event on Zoom this year was the involvement of family members and friends who do not live locally,” she said.

Relay for Life usually hosts a variety of smaller events throughout the year to fundraise, such as an acoustic music night, a dodgeball tournament, and a semiannual Paint the Campus Purple Week.

“This year, we decided to focus our efforts on events that could be easily translated to a virtual platform,” said O’Connell.

This included the creation of a new week-long event in December, Stepping Towards a Cure, which encouraged participants to fundraise while exercising. The event also hosted a number of speakers over Zoom, which allowed people beyond Elon’s campus to participate.

O’Connell credited the success of this year’s event and its planning to the work of the executive leadership team and general committees. Every volunteer worked to preserve the value of the event, which was to bring people from every possible background together to achieve a common goal, she said.

The event also hosts an annual luminaria ceremony. Each light can represent a life taken by cancer, a survivor of cancer, or support for a person still fighting the disease.

Due to inclement weather, this year’s luminary walk had to be postponed, but a ceremony was still held to play a slideshow with messages for cancer survivors, those currently battling cancer, and those lost to cancer.

More information about Relay for Life and the rescheduled luminary walk can be found here.