Relay For Life: moving forward, one step at a time

Some 200 participants walked through the night during McGill's Relay For Life event on Oct. 5-6. The student-run Relay raised more than $32,000 for cancer research.
During the Survivors’ Victory Lap, the track was lit with illuminated bags bearing personalized messages for cancer patients. / Photo: Hossein Taheri
During the Survivors’ Victory Lap, the track was lit with illuminated bags bearing personalized messages for cancer patients. / Photo: Hossein Taheri

Student-run event raised $32,000 for Canadian Cancer Society

By Neale McDevitt

Through the night they walked, lap after lap after lap of the track at Molson stadium. And when they grew tired, they signaled a teammate who would take over and continue the march. They began their journey in darkness and ended it under the sunrise of a new day.

“Cancer never sleeps, and neither did we,” says Isha Berry, a McGill undergrad and one of the almost 200 people who took part in the Relay For Life event on Oct. 5-6. And while the event was organized ostensibly to raise money for the Canadian Cancer Society, it also brought to light how people deal with a disease like cancer that touches so many people.

They honour their people

The event kicked off with the Survivors’ Victory Lap, in which cancer survivors (including at least one current McGill student) led the rest of the contingent on the first, symbolic lap of the track. “We walked behind the survivors to show our solidarity and support for them on their journey,” said Berry.

During that first lap, the track was ringed with simple paper bags illuminated by electric candles. People had written the names of friends and family members who had succumbed to cancer, beaten it or were still fighting it. The stadium lights were turned off and the illuminated bags cast a solemn glow upon the proceedings.

They create a community of support

The impetus behind the event itself, as witnessed in the Survivor’s Victory Lap, is to support cancer patients. But that sense of solidarity was built into the Relay itself, as 19 teams of people played out the same scene throughout the night, with a well-rested teammate taking over for one that was starting to tire. “It hits you around 3 a.m.,” says Berry. “But that’s why the team was so important. How much distance we covered didn’t matter, the only goal was to keep moving forward.”

That spirit of support was also seen in the various local businesses that donated food (pizza at 1 a.m.!) and beverages to help keep participants’ energy level up.

They celebrate life

Cancer is a horrible disease and a heavy burden on society, but the Relay reminded people that if there is a victory to be had, it is in celebrating life. During the course of the 12-hour Relay, a steady stream of musicians and singers entertained participants and friendly sporting competitions were waged in the infield. “It was a good night,” says Berry. “Everybody had fun.”

They get results

In all, some 200 people took part in the Relay. While the majority were students, including a large contingent from the Redmen basketball team, Berry says there were also friends and family members participating.

In the end, McGill’s Relay for Life raised more than $32,000 for the Canadian Cancer Society. Just a walk in the park.

If you missed the 2013 Relay For Life, you can still offer your support. The online fundraising system will remain open until November 29. For more information, click here