American Cancer Society on Campus hosted their annual Relay for Life fundraiser on April 12 in support of everyone whose lives have been affected by cancer. From 4 p.m. to 12 a.m., the Binghamton community gathered in the Binghamton University Events Center in honor of those who have had cancer, are currently battling cancer or have been lost to the illness.

Relay for Life raises funds for cancer initiatives and awareness, with 100 percent of the money going to the American Cancer Society (ACS) — the leading nonprofit for cancer in the United States. The event funds initiatives including Hope Lodge, a program that provides housing for cancer patients and caregivers while receiving treatment, and Road to Recovery program, where volunteers drive patients to their medical appointments free of charge. Additionally, funds go toward resources such as free screenings, wigs and emotional support groups.

Relay for Life was founded in 1985 by Gordon Klatt, who walked around a track for 24 hours to raise money for ACS. This year marks the 39th year since the founding of Relay for Life. At BU, members of the community including students and faculty, local high school students and Binghamton area residents could register for Relay for Life either as a group or individually. With a $15 required donation for pre-registration and $20 at the door, attendees were welcome to donate any additional amount they wished.

Jenna Stewart, mission and advocacy chair of ACS on Campus and a senior majoring in biology, conveyed the mission of Relay for Life.

“Our whole motto is ‘celebrate, remember, fight back,’ so the whole goal of the night is to celebrate people who have survived cancer and those who have cared for them, remember everyone that we’ve lost due to cancer, and fight back,” Stewart said.

As the BU chapter of ACS, American Cancer Society on Campus aims to fight against cancer through awareness and fundraising initiatives according to Katie Dullaghan, president of ACS on Campus and a senior majoring in integrative neuroscience.

The Relay for Life event began with a speech from ACS on Campus E-Board members, announcing the intention for the event and thanking everyone who came out and supported the fundraiser. Additionally, E-Board members conveyed their personal reasons for relaying. As of April 14, ACS on Campus has raised $18,687 for the ACS, including donations for Relay for Life and their fundraising efforts throughout the year.

After the E-Board speech, survivors and caretakers were invited to participate in the first lap around the track. Dullaghan elaborated upon the importance of Relay for Life both to herself and others.

“This event is special to me because my mom had breast cancer, and I saw how much she enjoyed Relay for Life events and felt supported at them,” Dullaghan wrote. “I want to encourage that at our events for survivors and their families. We hope that our club makes those in the broader Binghamton community affected by cancer feel less alone, and know that we care so much about them even if we don’t know them.”

Attendees had the chance to donate to ACS at the event, where ACS on Campus and other organizations tabled on the Events Center track. Participating organizations included the B-Healthy team educating students about breast cancer detection methods, the Binghamton Kickline team hosting a bow-crafting station and Sigma Psi Zeta hosting a pie in the face fundraiser.

John Lauricella, associate director of Relay for Life and a junior majoring in business administration, conveyed the importance of supporting those affected by cancer. Lauricella also commented upon the importance of understanding the disproportionate rates of cancer rates among minority groups and furthering resources to both prevent and treat cancer.

“I relay for my grandma who passed away at the age of 51 from breast cancer,” Lauricella wrote. “This event is also special to me as it has enabled me to hear the moving stories of those impacted by cancer and what it means to them to support this cause.”

The event also included Olympics-themed activities such as mini golf, slap shot, ping pong and a quarterback toss game, along with food provided by The Hungry Bearcat. Nevertheless, the focus of the event remained on those affected by cancer, according to Amy You, vice president of ACS on Campus and a senior majoring in business administration.

“We have activities centered around a theme every year so everyone can enjoy their time, but we hope to have everyone […] focus on the stories of cancer survivors and caregivers that have been touched by cancer,” You wrote. “I hope that participants can respect and sympathize with those who were brave enough to share their stories.”

Preparation for Relay for Life is nearly a yearlong process in which the ACS on Campus E-Board and Event Leadership Team raise awareness, reach out to campus organizations, send out letters to survivors and reach out to BU faculty and local schools, among many other tasks. In February, ACS on Campus hosted a kickoff event at 20 Hawley St. in Downtown Binghamton and in April, they held their Paint the Campus Purple Week in advance of Relay for Life.

Throughout the event, attendees had the opportunity to decorate luminaria bags in honor of somebody who is battling, has battled or who has lost the battle to cancer. The bags were then set out along the track and on the bleachers of the Events Center. At 9:30 p.m., ACS on Campus held a luminaria ceremony, in which attendees watched a slideshow honoring those who have beaten cancer and lost the battle. Lights were placed into the luminaria bags and an empty lap was performed around the track in honor of those who have been lost.

When asked what he hopes participants will take away from the event, Damien Chow, experience chair of ACS on Campus and a sophomore majoring in biology, conveyed his gratitude to this extremely important cause.

“I hope people come away from this event with just that — hope,” Chow wrote. “Hope that they found a cause they can relate to or just a community of good people. Hope for a cure, hope for the future and the knowledge that hope never has to go […] I’m just grateful to be in a place to do what I can to convey a message of hope and positivity, regardless of what time it may be in someone’s life, and hopefully we can all benefit from something like that.”