Get ready to party: Relay For Life approaches in April

When offered the opportunity, I often tell people that Relay For Life is “a 12-hour fundraising event for the American Cancer Society.” I then tack on, “participants form teams that have tents and themes for their sites, and each team is expected to have someone walking throughout the night.” I tend to leave the basic summary of Relay For Life at that … Really, though, Relay is much more than these 33 bland words can describe. So, what is Relay For Life?

This year, Relay For Life will be celebrating its 26th year of raising funds for cancer research and treatment. If Relay had a Facebook profile, it would boast having fundraised over $3 billion to date. Undoubtedly impressive is the 21 countries in which Relay takes place, involving over 5,000 communities and an estimated 4 million people, annually. That’s comparable to taking half of the residents of New York City to a track to walk for 24 hours (as most Relay events last an entire day). But still, what is Relay For Life?

At Rensselaer, Relay For Life is celebrating its 5th birthday. To commemorate half a decade of fighting back against cancer, this year’s Relay will have a Luau theme, fittingly called Luau For Life. On April 23, at 6 pm, all of campus and student life will unofficially shut down to gather at the ’86 Field. The students who have registered at will have formed teams with clever names and hosted unique fundraising events. These students, spirited in the fight against cancer, will spend the night enjoying entertainment, music, food, and friends, all in the name of fighting cancer. Engineers, family, and friends will be there because Relay For Life is the event of the night. If a party even wanted to happen on April 23, it would go to Relay, because Relay is the party.

The 2010 Relay for Life Committee has been working hard this year to organize a night you may never forget. From celebrating life, to remembering family and friends, to fighting back against cancer, Relay promises to give back in ways you can never imagine. You have the opportunity of a lifetime to provide someone else with another birthday. By donating $30 to the American Cancer Society, you could fund 10 hours of toll-free access to the National Cancer Information Center.

What am I asking you to do? Join the Relay party. I want you to come to Relay For Life this year and join campus in fighting back against cancer. There is no reason not to come. Registering for Relay For Life costs only $10, less than a dinner at Russell Sage Dining Hall. By raising $25 more, you can guarantee yourself a T-shirt. By Relaying, you provide a cancer victim with the chance at another birthday, you show survivors and patients that they are supported in their struggles, you enjoy friends and good laughs, you get fit, and you party.

At 6 am on the morning of April 24, the tents on the ’86 Field will collapse. Teams will disassemble their overnight video game setups and fold up their blankets. They will close their coolers (filled with soda and water, of course) and leave the “beach.” They will say Happy 26th Birthday to Relay For Life and wander their way back home. When the field is clear and all are gone, RPI hopes to have raised $100,000 to fight cancer. Reaching this goal would coincide with RPI raising half a million dollars for the American Cancer Society in the last five years.

Later that day, a cancer patient (survivor or in-treatment, no matter) will wake up. That human being will wake up to celebrate his or her birthday, an opportunity your efforts have afforded them. Relay For Life is a party. It’s a big birthday party. Please, in the name of birthdays, gather your friends, join a team, and come Luau For Life!