Everyday Superheros Team Up, Fight Cancer

Tori Dziedziak, reporter

Superheroes participated in the annual Relay for Life festivities held in Anderson Sports Health Center  April 12.

The superheroes are the hundreds of students, staff and faculty members who contribute to the American Cancer Society each year by raising funds and awareness, said Relay for Life staffers.

First year occupational therapy major Quinn Fohlinger relays because of a family member’s winning battle with breast cancer and in honor of the mother of a friend who struggled with lymphoma.

“It’s not just an event I go to. I’m personally connected with it,” Fohlinger said.

Fohlinger’s close relationships with people who have struggled with cancer have inspired her to work passionately for this cause. This year she raised over $1500, and her team, “Hunt for a Cure,” raised about $2,300.

Relay for Life is an event held around the globe that supports the fight against cancer. This year’s Relay theme at MU is superheroes.

Each Relay event lasts up to 24 hours. Teams are encouraged to camp out at the Relay location, which is usually a running track, and prepare fundraisers on the day of the event. Each team is asked to have at least one member walking the track at all times, because cancer never sleeps.

First year occupational therapy major Morgan Reed grew up participating in Relay for Life with her father and the people with whom he works.

“My sister and I at first kind of just thought it was something fun, ” she said, but soon after a close family member was diagnosed with the disease, Reed said.

Reed continues to Relay in support of other family members who also struggle with the disease.

Reed previously participated in Relay for Life with her youth group and swim team in high school. She is part of the MSOTA Relay team, which consists of occupational therapy students.

Reed stayed involved with Relay for Life in college for a few reasons, partly to become involves on campus during her first year, but also because Relay means a lot to her.

“I want to do it here to get involved.  It’s a good cause,” Reed said. “You get to have fun and hang out while raising money and helping people.”

The Relay for Life ceremony began with a survivor lap in which cancer survivors take a walk around the track. The second lap is dedicated to those who have given care to cancer patients, and all teams are encouraged to join together in walking the third lap, which is called the opening lap.

Relay for Life staffers donate many hours to raise money and finish preparations, which include booking a Relay site, contacting sponsors, encouraging participants, and hiring a staff of Relay members to make sure the ceremony runs smoothly.

The money raised is dedicated to cancer research and the search for a cure. It is also used to provide free information and services to patients and caregivers.

Fohlinger is a Relay team captain as well as part of the Luminaria staff in which she serves as chair, just as she did during her high school Relay experience.

The Luminaria dedication during the Relay ceremony involves lighting candles and placing them into white paper bags. Each bag, which is inscribed with a name, is dedicated to someone who went through a battle with cancer.

The white paper bags are arranged in order to spell out words relevant to Relay for Life, such as “faith,” “hope,” and “love.”

“It’s to remember the ones we have lost,” Fohlinger said.

Reed said her favorite Relay for Life experience involves the Luminaria ceremony. She and her sister dedicated luminarias to members of their family, and at the Relay for Life event Reed attended near home, her family members’ names were displayed with the names of everyone affected by cancer for all to see at the event.

“It was emotional, but it was a good thing because it’s in memory or honor of them,” Reed said. “It was really moving.”

Students do not only support the American Cancer Society by asking for monetary donations or selling t-shirts, or even by selling tie-dye socks, like Fohlinger’s team did. They also participate in plenty of activities.

On ceremony day, the track is filled with teams participating in games, bake sales and fundraisers. A deejay keeps people awake, energetic, and entertained.

A $10 registration fee grants entry into Relay.

The Relay for Life event at MU grows each year as the school expands and more people become involved.

Fohlinger said cancer is a touchy subject to most people.

“Usually people are afraid to talk about it, and it’s become such a stigma,” Fohlinger said.

Fohlinger wants people to understand that if more people become aware of cancer and learn more about it, conversations can turn positive and spread awareness and gain more support for the fight against cancer.

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