Respect the fighters and unite together so that one day we may walk in a world without cancer

Despite weather related issues, Relay for Life proceeded, raising $19,000 in total monetary donations. While 450 people registered, the storm impacted the number of participants and increased the commute time due to fallen trees obstructing roads. However, months of planning paid off and resulted in immeasurable impact. The event took place for a period of 10 hours and was held in Mackal gym on campus this past Saturday, March 3. Supporters either donated online, in person or in bags placed along the indoor track.

As community members trickled in, they were encouraged to write a story, quote or any other form pertinent to the event. Their written communication was displayed on paper bags and placed around the track. As participants walked or ran the relay they had an opportunity to read, feel and connect to the emotion behind every story. Towards the finale, glow sticks lit up inside every bag as everyone took a moment of silence, honoring the souls of every fighter and their family members.

“This is Relay for Life’s 15th anniversary here at URI,” said Heidi Thompson, Relay for Life RI coordinator. Thanks to the support of the local community here at the University, Relay for Life has been able to continue raising money year after year. Every 72 cents per dollar raised goes towards research and clinical trials.

“Every college has a different club that runs Relay for Life,” said Mary Colbert, president of URI’s Colleges Against Cancer. Since high school Mary has been participating in the event and now proudly organizes the relay at URI. She has shown tremendous strength through the hardships life sent her way, as multiple family members have been diagnosed. Generally, the event is held once a year on campus, but planning and organizing starts months ahead of time. “We do all of the fundraising, planning and recruitment beforehand,” said Colbert. Students on campus are encouraged to participate each year either as runners or volunteers. Money that’s raised goes towards research in cancer prevention, rides to treatment, housing while patients are in treatment and affiliated programs (i.e. Look Good, Feel Good Program). Chemotherapy is highly expensive and sometimes patients rely upon these funds to help provide the care they need. Often, it’s supportive efforts like these, coupled with research advancements, that keep families persevering.

It took the determination of one person running around a track for 24 hours, single-handedly raising $24,000. As a result of this perseverance, Relay for Life was created. Now the program takes place on an international level. “Relay originated in 1985 at a track in Tacoma, Washington,” said Thompson. This act sparked high schools, colleges and communities across the nation as well as 23 different countries to host Relay for Life. Here at URI the club, Colleges Against Cancer, organizes the events locally.

“I got started with the relay as a volunteer, and then a few years later I was diagnosed,” said Thompson. Now she is part of the American Cancer Society’s staff. Heidi Thompson expressed feeling passionate about her work that’s become more than just a job for her. Being part of an effort that’s making a difference, serves immeasurable value. To the fighters out there, may your light of hope always shine strong. The community of URI is here for you.