USC students and members of the community gathered on Cromwell Field this weekend to participate in Relay for Life, a 24-hour walkathon that raised $40,525 for the American Cancer Society.
Campus organizations and individuals formed teams and pledged to have at least one member walking the track for the duration of the event, which began at noon on Saturday and concluded with a closing ceremony Sunday morning. For many students affected by cancer, the event was a chance to take action against the disease.
“The first day that I came to college, my grandpa passed away from cancer,” said Kim Artounian, a sophomore majoring in neuroscience. “I was driving up from Arizona to USC when we got the call and the first week I got involved with Colleges Against Cancer and Relay.”
Colleges Against Cancer is a national organization with chapters at many colleges and universities. At USC, the club sponsors a number of cancer related events. The biggest event of the year is Relay for Life, which involves almost a year of planning. Relay for Life is one of the biggest fundraisers for the American Cancer Society, with relays taking place around the world. Teams compete with each other to raise money before the event, and on-site fundraisers raise additional funds throughout the event.
“There was a man who just came back from a relay in Brazil, and he said he’s been to over 250 relays in his lifetime,” Artounian said. “He said he does it because the American Cancer Society supported him when he was battling cancer — that makes you realize how special the relays are.”
In addition to the 24-hour walk, there were several events throughout the day as entertainment for the participants. The event began with the Survivors Lap, in which cancer survivors took the inaugural lap to begin the relay.
Later in the day, the Luminaria ceremony was held. where candles were lit to remember the lives lost to cancer and those currently battling the disease. Teams also competed against each other in the Relay Olympics with mini-games such as a ring toss.
“This has been a transition year for us, and we did a lot of restructuring of the committee,” said Megan Trieu, the production chair for Relay for Life. “We’re trying to build and make this an even bigger event for next year.”
One change made this year was the addition of the Fight Back committee that encouraged students to take action against cancer beyond participating in the relay. One example was donating hair, and students from the Paul Mitchell Cosmetology school volunteered to cut hair for students who wished to donate more than eight inches.
“It’s great to see the diversity of groups represented at Relay,” said Sarah Urke, a sophomore majoring in human biology. “You have really big groups like the band, but it was great to see some smaller organizations out here as well, and you could see USC and the surrounding community coming together to fight back against cancer.”