Year after year, students join the fight against cancer with the help of the Cal Poly Relay for Life committee. However, this year, Cal Poly students aren’t going to be the only ones fighting alongside the campus committee.
In previous years, San Luis Obispo High School, San Luis Obispo county and Cal Poly held separate Relay for Life events. However, the American Cancer Society retired and combined several relay committees in a nationwide analysis of their spending efficiency verses funds raised for cancer research. This is an ongoing process that has been in the making for several years, Relay for Life Community Manager Nicole Takeda said. Both the county and high school committees were not able to continue this year due to reevaluation.
“The only relay that is still a thing [in San Luis Obispo] is [Cal Poly’s], so we are really trying to open it up this year to the community and everyone in general, rather than just the college kids,” Cal Poly Relay for Life co-president and business administration junior Megan Frizzie said.
Student-run, but not by choice
In addition, the Relay for Life staff member that directly oversaw the Cal Poly committee was relocated this past year. Takeda was assigned as the new staff member in charge of Cal Poly. However, she is located in Santa Barbara and oversees four other Relay events.
Takeda’s location has limited her ability to to help the students beyond best practices and legal questions. As a result, this year is truly a student-run event.
“Honestly this year, I felt like we started over completely since we didn’t really have someone there to help us keep our structure,” Frizzie said.
In starting over, Frizzie and co-president Mitchell Liwanag found themselves taking on a lot of the responsibilities previously handled by the staff member in addition to their expected administrative roles.
Liwanag, an agricultural communication senior, said he has seen a fluctuation in community managers over the course of his four years. His freshman year, a similar situation occurred in which Cal Poly did not have a designated staff partner.
“Watching things grow from having no staff partner … to having a really good one … to losing that really good resource, I think [the event] definitely has become more of the students’ responsibility,” Liwanag said.
The lack of a staff member has negatively affected their funding. In the previous year, the club event was able to raise roughly $27,000 for the American Cancer Society with more than 40 student teams signed up to participate.
This year, the club aimed to meet the same amount in donations. Unfortunately, only 23 teams have signed up so far, amounting to roughly $3,000 of funds. Though it is common for teams to wait until the last day to sign up, Liwanag said, it has been difficult spreading awareness of the event. They have turned to local fundraising to compensate for the lack of teams.
“We are pretty far behind honestly because us presidents can’t do all the normal stuff we would do,” Frizzie said. “We usually try to help out with recruitment and help out here and there with what people need help with, but we haven’t been able to be that resource for people.”
Despite the obstacles, Frizzie and Liwanag are staying positive and viewing the challenges as a learning experience.
“It has definitely brought the students a lot closer because we are all kind of stressing together to get everything done,” Frizzie said. “People are definitely stepping up and helping out.”
It also gave the committee the opportunity to extend the invitation to the San Luis Obispo community, rather than focus on Cal Poly students. By reaching out, there has been a significant rise in the amount of survivors planning on attending the event.
“We are really lucky and we have two really good survivor-ship chairs who are really good about reaching out to all the programs they have for survivors in San Luis Obispo, and really trying to get the survivors from past years to come back and get new ones,” Liwanag said.
The event will take place May 13 at the Cal Poly track from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Smile and Nod, the Lonely Monsters and Take it SLO are all planning to perform at the event.