Best day of the year is one spent fighting cancer

By Keith Johnson

For the second year in a row, Relay for Life has been my longest day of the year. It consists of an alarm set for 6 a.m., followed by a coffee run, six hours of hanging lights and running cables, 12 hours of not-so-labor-filled-labor, four hours of deconstruction, concluding with a much-needed trip back to the apartment for sleep. Twenty-four hours, and it’s my favorite day of the year.

The internationally famous 12-hour Relay for Life event is Ithaca College’s largest student-organized annual fundraiser. Eight months of preparation result in an event that raises more than $50,000 for the American Cancer Society. My role in this endeavor? The technology coordinator.

Relay for Life is one of very few student organized events that have been held in the college’s Athletics and Events Center. The facility provides us with state-of-the-art resources to put together an event that can touch anyone who walks through those doors. My primary responsibilities are coordinating any and all technology for the event, including intercoms, staging, sound systems, video projection, and lighting systems. Hours of setup leaves us with a center stage ready to hold our 15-plus performances throughout the night. This year, acts ranged from a cappella groups, dance groups, circus performers, and interactive Zumba and ROTC workouts.

This year’s theme was the Academy Awards. Movie-themed decorations were placed on every one of more than 100 tables around the track, each home to its own unique activity. Several laps around the track were designated as memorable movie laps, featuring clips from Titantic, The Lion King, Frozen, The Little Mermaid, Pirates of the Caribbean, and many others. Participants could enjoy concessions and table activities, walk laps around the track, spectate the performances, and participate in karaoke.

It was an event designed for everyone, and each participant was touched in his or her own way. Even in just the two years I have participated, the event has left a mark that will last a lifetime. It’s an incredible feeling to witness hundreds of my peers coming together for a common cause. In some form or another, everyone is affected by cancer. If you have never attended Relay for Life, put it on your bucket list — it’s unlike any other.

Capturing these moments best is when the clock strikes 8 p.m., and the stage lights fade to blue and turn to flood the room. The house lights shut off and Ithacappella begins to sing. Hundreds walk the track at this time, holding their luminarias and remembering who we all fight for and why we never stop fighting.


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