Friday, April 26 marks the beginning of the annual Relay for Life event, which will begin at 6 p.m. and will end at 1 a.m. on Saturday in Lund Arena.
“Relay for Life is an event that celebrates our core value of ‘community’. The event brings hope and support to those that have faced cancer. It also helps those that have been caregivers to a survivor or someone that has passed know that they are not alone… that we support each other,” Ann Volk, Advisor for Colleges Against Cancer, said.
Relay for Life events at Gustavus are led by the Colleges Against Cancer organization. The group provides cancer education and fundraising, spreads awareness about the dangers of smoking and tanning throughout the year, and leads activities at Hope Lodge.
Hope Lodge residences are run by the American Cancer Association as a place for cancer patients and their caregivers to stay free of charge as they undergo treatment.
So far, 137 students and 16 teams from Gustavus are registered to participate in the relay.
“I believe local leaders have talked about potentially joining the Gustavus and Nicollet County Relay for Life Events… It would be a fun way to join the college and the community,” Assistant Vice President of Student Life Megan Ruble said.
This year, the financial goal is $50,000, “the same as it’s been for the past few years,” Volk said.
“The goal for Relay is to raise funds for the American Cancer Society for research, education, advocacy, and patient services; raise awareness about cancer and the symptoms and routine screenings; and provide support and hope to those currently battling cancer, celebrate those who have beat cancer, and remember those that have lost the battle,” Volk added.
“I wasn’t involved in Relay for Life until my first year at Gustavus. I did not know much about what it was or what it supported, but… I fell in love with the cause. It is so amazing to see what a community can do when they come together and work towards a common goal,” Senior Jenna Anderson said.
Anderson is on the Executive Board of Colleges Against Cancer and works with marketing and promotion.
“The biggest marketing that Colleges Against Cancer does is tabling. We are outside the caf usually about four weeks during spring semester to get the word out about Relay. We also have a week called Paint it Purple Week in March where we try to get people excited about Relay through tabling and our Pie-a-Gustie Fundraiser. We have posters around campus, as well as a Relay Facebook page,” Anderson said.
Each year, several cancer survivors share their stories with participants.
“I believe that having cancer survivors speak and give testimony and encouragement that people can fight and win over cancer is incredibly important,” Ruble said.
“The American Cancer Society funds direct services for people fighting cancer and also funds research and technology that allow more people to live longer and healthier lives after being diagnosed with cancer. Some of the results of that research has literally saved my life,” Ruble added.
“The drug Herceptin was put on the market only about 20 years ago and specifically targets my kind of tumor. Prior to its introduction, patients with my kind of cancer had a much lower survival rate. Another example is… 3D tomosynthesis mammograms, which catch tumors much earlier in dense breasts. Early detection of breast cancer is the key to curing individual cases which is the best we can hope for until we have a true cure or, even better, something that will prevent cancer in the first place,” Ruble added.
Ruble will be speaking at Friday’s Relay about her experience as a cancer survivor alongside guest speaker Grant Brockhouse.
Through this event, “survivors who didn’t really know each other have joined together and lead the first lap in unity. Some cry, some smile and some have danced through this powerful experience,” Volk said.
“Attendees have showed great compassion and support to the student speakers who have faced cancer themselves. They have been educated about cancer issues and where to go for help and accurate information. They have celebrated the survivors and learned that not all who hear ‘You have cancer’ are terminal,” Volk said.
“I had a Gustie student some years ago, Kristen Campbell, who fought cancer while a Gustie. She spoke about a month before her graduation at that year’s Relay and it was so powerful. She is healthy and happy and living out west now,” Ruble said.
“I [was] diagnosed with ovarian cancer the summer before my junior year here at Gustavus. It was very difficult for me to drop out for the semester because I would be missing school and a season of soccer. My coach and teammates did everything they could to help me feel apart of the team which helped so so so much. I was able to stream games from the hospital, and was able to be an assistant coach on the sidelines when I could make it to games,” Senior Trina Rinke said.
Rinke was a speaker at last year’s Relay for Life.
“I had a great time. it was so amazing to see all the people there to support the fight against cancer. I am excited to participate this year. I think this event will bring hope to the Gustavus and St. Peter community for a future where we find a cure for cancer,” Rinke said.
“I am so very proud of the students in Colleges Against Cancer. They are passionate about helping prevent cancer by educating their peers, supporting those facing cancer, fundraising, marketing, volunteering to help others facing cancer at Hope Lodge, and carrying out a large-scale event seamlessly year after year,” Volk said.