Relay for Life is an event that is held each spring on campus by the student organization VOLS Against Cancer in partnership with the American Cancer Society. The relay this year will take place Sunday, April 10 at 2 p.m, in the Student Union Plaza.
Relay for Life is a fundraiser that focuses on funding research for a cure for cancer. It was founded in 1985 by Dr. Gordy Klatt, and it has been a huge event ever since. Klatt walked a track himself in Tacoma, Washington, and raised money for the American Cancer Society.
The first Relay for Life on campus was organized in 2003, but the event eventually left campus and became a general Knox County event. VOLS Against Cancer was founded in 2018 by Anna Fredericks in part to bring the relay back to campus.
The relay committee of VOLS Against Cancer is dedicated to this walk and in 2020, the group won the Student Organization of the Year Award, and they continue to work hard to make their presence known on campus.
Senior Athena Tran is the vice president of VOLS Against Cancer and has been involved with Relay for Life since she was in high school. She said that she is as passionate about this organization because of the impact it makes and due to her own connection to cancer.
“I am passionate about Relay because the world has lost too many people to cancer. I have had family impacted by cancer and friends who have lost their loved ones to cancer. I appreciate the work Relay for Life does to honor those that are fighting cancer and those that we have lost. They also acknowledge the work of caregivers, which it is important to have a support system when battling cancer,” Tran said.
Many of the people involved with the committee are involved because they feel a personal connection to the people they walk for and for the cause itself.
Abigail Mortensen, a sophomore studying business analytics and the director of logistics for VOLS Against Cancer, was looking for a student organization last year and found this one.
“I got involved last year as the graphics chair. I was a freshman and was looking into various student organizations to join, and my mom had recently been diagnosed with skin cancer. Relay for Life really gave me an outlet to share and use my passion for cancer research funding,” Mortensen said.
Each year, the relay is themed, which helps boost morale and get people excited for the walk. This year’s theme is Disney, which the committee is excited about and hopes that those in attendance will be excited about as well.
Junior Hailee Ronnow is the director of recruitment and she handles getting others involved, including high schoolers. Recruitment is something that she is passionate about and is why she applied for her position.
“I got involved in this organization by just joining my sorority's team when I was a freshmen and then decided to join the committee my sophomore year by being the social media chair and then halfway through the year was elected to step in as the director of public relations when the other director stepped down. I knew I wanted to stay on the exec board so I decided to apply for the director of recruitment spot because I am so passionate about people joining to help the cause,” Ronnow said.
Community members and students can register for the event for $25 or can go the day of and pay $35 for students and $10 for non-students. The Relay organizers accept cash and Venmo, and all proceeds of the event go to the American Cancer Society. There will be games, food and music. The opening ceremony starts at 2:30 p.m. and the Luminaria ceremony, a way of honoring those who have battled, overcome or been lost to cancer, starts at 8:30 p.m.