By: Jermian J. Román Estrada & Yelitza I. Nieves Prosper
15 May 2012
The past April 28 & 29, 2012, the UPRM’s synthetic track was the scene for the annual event of Relay For Life. The American Cancer Society organizes this event in order to collect funds to help cancer patients on their fight against this disease.
Relay For Life is more of a communitarian event more than an athletic one, in which many communities get together in one place to celebrate the fight against cancer and to remember the people who died fighting. The schools, corporations, clubs and even groups of families and friends participates which working all the year to collect funds for the American Cancer Society. They perform many activities and sell t-shirts, hats, and merchandise allusive to the event to collect the money.
As Relay For Life is known worldwide, everyone have heard about it, but only a few know more of it. Many people think that Relay For Life is just walking an entire day in a track. They ignore that this event involves a lot of meanings, purposes, activities and even prizes.
The principal activities are the three representative words: “Celebrate. Remember. Fight Back”. The event starts with the Survivors Lap, also known as the Victory Lap. At night, they make a lap in silence for the deceased. The next day the event finishes with a lap to Fight Back, making a pledge to keep fighting.
Relay For Life started with a parade of all the groups participating, organized by the number of their tent. Every group had a theme of a holiday because of the motto “One World. One Party. One Hope.” Each tent related the holiday to the fight with cancer.
The UPRM band started the parade with the “abanderadas”, followed with the staff of the event and the other groups. Carolina Plaza, Univision reporter, presented the groups while they were walking beneath the arc of Relay for Life.
During this year’s event, the University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez Campus had organized 8 teams which were: Sororities of UPRM, Fraternities of UPRM, SHPE, Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Industrial Engineering and Business Administration, being Business Administration the group that most funds collected. The relay was from 4 pm of the 28th of April up to 12pm of the 29th of April. The Relay Event makes reference to the proverb: “Cancer never rests”. Due to this proverb, during the event there must always be at least one member running or walking for each team.
Other groups participating were corporation groups like Mr. Special and Sears. High Schools like Eugenio Maria de Hostos from Mayaguez, Segundo Ruiz Belvis from Hormigueros, and some private schools like SESO from Mayaguez participate too. Even when people did not belong to any team, they supported the fight taking short walks on the circuit to complete a lap.
After the parade began the protocol acts to officially start the event. First, they made a prayer. The UPRM rector, Dr. Jorge Rivera Santos, make the commitment to repeat Relay For Life again in the Campus.
Carmen “Annie” Negron, President of Relay For Life, talked and thanked the staff for their help. They presented the symbol girl, Grecia Kamila Martinez and the godparents, Zamarie Ponce Fantauzzi and Rafael Antonio Martinez Pantoja. Finally, they talked about Relay For Life’s origins.
This event has been celebrated since Dr. Gordy Klatt, a Tacoma colorectal surgeon, wanted to enhance the income of his local American Cancer Society office. In May of 1985, he decided to personally raise money for the fight against cancer by doing something he enjoyed, which was running marathons.
At the time being, Dr. Gordy Klatt spent 24 hours running and walking Baker Stadium at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma. In order to help Dr. Klatt in his cause, friends of his paid to run or walk with him for lapses of 30 minutes. When Dr. Klatt finished the marathon, he raised a quantity of $27,000. This was when Dr. Klatt saw a glimpse of the future and saw a 24 hour relay marathon where teams would run or walk to raise funds and awareness against cancer which would later become the first team relay event known as the City of Destiny Classic 24-Hour Run Against Cancer.
After that, they did the Survivor Lap. Survivors are invited to circle the track together and help everyone celebrate the victories they have achieved over cancer. The survivors were using dark purple t-shirts and a banner which read: “We are the survivors. Your reason for relay.”
At 8:00 p.m. start the Luminaria Ceremony, the participants walked the track lined with luminaria bags in reflection. The Luminaria were a lighted candle inside a paper bag with rocks, which the box have the name of the person that bought it, and the name of the person to whom it was dedicated.
This part of the event was made to remember the ones that had fallen and lost their lives, never giving up, battling cancer. As the candles were being lit, there were also hot air balloons that symbolized how the light of those loved ones that died fighting cancer, parted away to the sky to remind all the participants and supporters at Relay For Life about their fight.
At that moment is also taking place the Caregivers Ceremony. These individuals give their time, love, and support to friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers who face cancer. These Caregivers are identified this year with a plastic transparent medal.
“The caregivers are people near cancer patients; we advise, help, care and motivate them.” said Ana ‘Annie’ M. Sebastian, who has been a caregiver for the last three years. “I had been in contact with the woman I care and she has been active and she even forgets about her disease.” express ‘Annie’ referring to the optimist attitude and the good time she has with her patient.
Agnes Fenollal, a breast cancer survivor, gave words of inspiration to fellow kinsmen for their battles which also served as motivation to others that once were in the same situation. “My battle against cancer has been an intense one, full of doubts and questions. I was very scared because I did not know what to expect, which became to be an uncertain future. In the end, my motivation in life has been and always will be my kids, besides God, in whom I trust and believe in. I have faith and trust that God has a purpose for everything, everything is about having a positive and hopeful attitude and living every day to the max.”
“At Relay, you can find healing, comfort, and support from others who have faced cancer or who have lost a loved one to the disease” express the official Relay For Life website.. Also, you can gather together with friends, family, and colleagues to laugh, cry, and create lasting memories. Each person who shares the Relay experience can take pride in knowing that they are working to create a world where this disease will no longer threaten the lives of our loved ones or claim another year of anyone’s life.