Dim golden lights inside of decorated paper bags illuminated Cal Poly’s track Friday night at Colleges Against Cancer’s Relay for Life in honor of the lives of cancer patients.
“Relay for Life is a time when I really push myself outside of school,” landscape architecture senior JoAnnie Tran said. “I will nap two to three hours, but then I’m back at it. I run, skip or walk the entire time. It’s painful on my body, but it’s nothing compared to what they (cancer patients) go through.”
The 18-hour event kicked off with a watermelon eating contest and performances by Cal Poly groups like Smile and Nod and Take it SLO. Box the Oxford played several songs while participants hula hooped, danced, tattooed henna and conversed on picnic blankets.
Though Relay for Life was centered around cancer, the seriousness of the event was not diminished by the activities offered, according to students.
“The fun stuff is a reminder to take life less serious and enjoy what you have,” biological sciences freshman Yayoi Marumo said.
Marumo was joined by animal science senior Jessica Copeland in that the more upbeat activities of the night contributed positively to the event.
“I think that Relay for Life is as much about celebrating survivors and people who have successfully overcome it as much as those who are grieving, and the fun activities add a positive aspect to the event,” Copeland said. “You see people hula hooping and dancing and having fun, and that’s what life is about.”
The evening quieted down at 9 p.m. when the luminaria ceremony began.
The time was one of quiet reflection, to remember the people who left our lives, but also to honor the people who are still in them.
The conclusion of the ceremony ended with an open mic session in which the event coordinators invited students on stage to share their experiences with cancer if they wished.
While only two students opted to take the mic, they stressed the reminder to make every day worth living and how they became stronger from their tribulations.
Cal Poly school of education alumna Katie McDonald and her sister, liberal studies junior Kelsey McDonald, were two of many students affected by cancer.
“We came out to relay in memory of our dad who passed away from brain cancer in 2003,” Katie said.
Other students came out simply to show their support for the cancer survivors, even if cancer hasn’t touched their lives.
“I’ve seen it (cancer), I just haven’t felt it, and just because I haven’t felt it, doesn’t mean I don’t want to contribute,” electrical engineering sophomore Hser Poe said.
Despite how deeply cancer affected participants, the evening brought together a community that shared a hope, represented by the light of the luminarias, that one day there will be a cure for cancer.