An affirmation of life: Relay for Life brings hope to cancer survivors


Megan Petzold/ Iowa State Daily Photographer

One of the events during Relay 4 Life March 3 was a jazzercize class. Once it began, people gathered quickly to participate in this event. 

Keegan Kearney

Students and families gathered in the Lied Recreation Athletic Center Saturday to participate in Relay for Life, a celebration of the fight against cancer and those who have fought the battle in their own lives.

Cancer survivors and the families of survivors and victims came together for a number of events meant to raise money for the American Cancer Society, one of the biggest cancer nonprofits in the U.S.

For the participants though, the relay represents more than just a fundraiser; it’s an affirmation of life, an opportunity to come together and pay respect to the struggle and strength of those who’ve been impacted by a disease that attacks approximately 39.6 percent of men and women.

At the kickoff of the event, cancer survivors took to the track in an honorary ceremony representing the strength they showed in their battle with cancer, as their loved ones cheered them on from the sidelines.

In the next lap, survivors were joined by the caregivers, nurses and doctors who helped make their recovery possible and then by their families in the third lap.

After the third lap, the rest of the participants were all welcomed to join.

Aside from the cancer walk, there were performances by some Iowa State clubs such as DUBH and the Stand Up Comedy Club, as well as a silent auction and a variety of games and activities.

The finale of the event was the luminaria ceremony, where participants wrote the names of a cherished survivor or loved one lost to cancer on paper bags lined up around the track, which were then lit up for a period of quiet reflection on the difficulties of the struggle.

The ceremony is meant to honor those people who didn’t survive their diagnosis. However, more importantly, the event highlights the hope that can be found in every remission and the strength within every survivor.  

“It reminds you why you came to the event,”said Katie Knudsen, event coordinator for the organization.

When Freddi Fennel was diagnosed with cancer seven years ago, she began attending the relay for hope and support.

“I truly look forward to this night,” Fennel said as she walked the track. “I love seeing the survivors come together and see people in the community that they can see and know there’s somebody that knows exactly what they’re going through.”

She said out of all the cancer organizations she is aware of, she trusts the American Cancer Society to do the most good.

“There’s other organizations that don’t give as much of their donations as they say they’re going to,” Fennel said. “Whereas the American Cancer Society has just stepped up every time.

“Whenever anyone’s like, ‘What cancer organization should I support?’, I always tell them American Cancer Society.”

Knudsen lost her mother to cancer in 2005. She has been heavily involved in the organization since she was six years old, and said she felt fortunate to be able to work with an organization she so strongly believes in.

“I see our mission at work every day and I see the importance of it. And I love to work with the college students,” Knudsen said.

A majority of the volunteers and coordinators for the event were Iowa State students and members of the Iowa State chapter of Colleges Against Cancer, which is affiliated with the American Cancer Society. Colleges Against Cancer provides opportunities for students to get involved in programs aimed to increase the comfort and support of cancer patients.

All of the money raised from the event goes to the American Cancer Society to fund both further research and other programs, like the “Hope Lodges,” where cancer patients are sheltered and cared for free of charge during their treatment.

This year, Relay for Life raised $41,508.60 for the American Cancer Society.