As part of a nationwide event, Relay for Life brought together St. Olaf and Carleton students alike, as well as members of the Northfield community who had raised money for cancer research.
Although Relay for Life is a relatively long-standing tradition at St. Olaf, this marked its first year as an all night event. Held from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m., the evening was not short on entertainment that stretched into the early dawn hours featuring everyone from the Limestones to Rob Dyzasta and events ranging from face painting to raffles.
St. Olaf Cancer Connection (SCC) has sponsored the event for five consecutive years, this year bringing an even larger turnout than last year, with 645 people on 75 teams of five to 10 people each. The participants have raised about $58,000 to date, falling a little short of SCC's goal of 70,000. President Laura Hiller '08 said that donations always come in after the event as participants continue to tell friends and families about the cause.
"One of our major goals this year was to have more involvement outside of St. Olaf, from Northfield community members and Carleton," Hiller said. It seems that this goal was met through increased advertising and e-mails to the community, however one of the largest impacts on community involvement should be credited to this years honorary survivor Jim Penning. Hiller explained that an honorary survivor is chosen each year "as a message of hope."
This year Jim Penning, a junior at Northfield High School "helped draw in a lot of high school and community involvement," Hiller said, "especially because his mom is a teacher at the middle school and the family is highly involved in their church." In the past, St. Olaf Relay for Life honorary survivors have been St. Olaf faculty and alumni.
Hiller said that the changes in this years' relay, a move to an over night event and the move inside, were received in a positive light. "I think having it inside made it more intimate," said Hiller, who had initially been concerned that having the event in Tostrud would make it seem like a solely St. Olaf event, alienating other participants from the community. On the overnight aspect of the event, Hiller noted that "many relays across the nation are 24 hour events, in some ways symbolizing how cancer never sleeps and how cancer patients are always dealing with it."
Hiller also noted that two of the most important traditions, the lighting of the luminaria and the silent lap, were carried forward.
The luminaria, a light to represent someone who has died from cancer, survived cancer or is currently battling cancer is an incredibly important part of the evening that Hiller said "allows everyone to interpret in a way that is relevant and unique to him or her."