Harvard’s Relay For Life–an annual student-led fundraiser to support cancer survivors and disease research through the American Cancer Society–aims to raise $60,000 in its twelfth iteration this April, according to organizers.
The overnight fundraising walk, one of many nationwide, features team members walking laps around Gordon Indoor Track for up to 12 hours, as well as other activities that have included live band performance and free massages in the past.
Last year, the event raised about $45,000, and previously raised $88,000 in 2010 and $150,200 in 2006, the latter of which was the largest and most successful fundraising campaign for the American Cancer Society at the time.
Organizers said they hope to improve upon last year’s total by ramping up publicity efforts and addressing common misconceptions about Relay For Life, such as that it requires running for 12 hours.
“You don’t actually have to run,” Samantha M. Sheridan, a staff partner at the American Cancer Society, said. She added that most participants choose to walk.
Unlike in years past when the event ran from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., Preeti V. Srinivasan ’16, one of the three program directors, said that they scheduled it four hours earlier, from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. to attract a larger participant base.
“Despite the fact that Harvard students seem to be pulling all-nighters left and right, it’s really, really hard to get students to hang out for an event until six in the morning,” Srinivasan said. “We wanted an event where students could see it from start to finish.”
Sheridan said that she has been pleased with student engagement thus far, citing the current donation total of $9,341 from the official event webpage.
In preparation for the relay, organizers recently held “Paint the Campus Purple Week” and tabled in front of the Science Center asking passing students to tie purple balloons to their backpacks to increase publicity. Last week’s campaign culminated with the “Paint the Gym Purple” men’s varsity basketball game against Yale on Friday and included a raffle basket donated by the Department of Athletics. The raffle, which included Harvard basketball gear and a restaurant gift card, raised about $250, according to Sheridan.
Relay For Life can be especially meaningful because it brings together a diverse group of people, Srinivasan said.
“[Cancer] has no lines in terms of like age, race, socioeconomic status, [or] anything you can think of. We all know somebody that’s been affected by cancer, and I think that that’s why so many people [get involved],” she said.
–Staff writer Caleb O. Shelburne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on twitter @caleboshelburne.
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