Relay runs for life

Faith Isbell

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death and the second most common cancer among both men and women in the United States.

Every month, the American Cancer Society supports multiple cancer-awareness related campaigns in its efforts to create greater awareness of cancer, and for the month of November, Washington and Lee’s Relay for Life club joined the ACS in working to promote Lung Cancer Awareness Month.

On Nov. 14, W&L’s Relay for Life club hosted its first annual “Kick Back” 5K race to promote lung cancer awareness.

The race started at 10 a.m. at W&L’s Duchossois Tennis Center. The course ran the length of the Back Campus trail, which leads along the wooded banks of the Maury River up to the Liberty Hall Ruins.

About 25 runners participated, and Relay for Life raised close to $600. Registration was $20, and runners were able to pre-register last week or register the morning of the event. The Relay for Life club had a table set up and passed out t-shirts, hats and cups to participants.

The first runner to finish was Heather Lee, ‘19. Lee ran cross country in high school and had participated in 5Ks before. But she said she found the “Kick Back” 5K to more relaxed and fun.

“I wanted to run because it was for a good cause,” Lee said. “I usually run everyday as exercise, so I might as well make it worthwhile.”

Also among the runners was Katie Barnes, ‘16, who is also a member of the Relay for Life club and serves as the Fundraising Chair.

“It was good use of a Saturday morning on a beautiful day,” Barnes said. “We had a good turnout, and I think that if we hosted a 5K again, we could get an even bigger turnout.”

In the weeks leading up to the 5K, the Relay for Life club reached out to students, faculty, and staff from W&L as well as the W&L Law School and greater Rockbridge area. Junior Chair of Relay for Life Emma Buckle, ‘17, was hopeful for a large turnout from the community.

“It was a family-friendly event,” Buckle said. “We wanted to get everyone and anyone involved and promote the healthy lifestyle that helps prevent cancer.”

The “Kick Back” 5K is just one of the many events that Relay for Life hosts. Each month, the club organizes an event that corresponds with the specific cancer for the month as chosen by the American Cancer Society. For the month of November, the American Cancer Society focuses on lung cancer awareness.

Chair of Relay for Life Marielle Lafaire, ‘16, said she hopes to achieve the club’s fundraising goal of $30,000 by March. Over the past four years, the W&L Relay for Life club has raised over $100,000.

Despite its success, both Lafaire and Buckle believe that Relay for Life’s objective as a club goes beyond simply fundraising.

“[Relay for Life] goes much deeper than that,” Lafaire said. “We don’t talk about cancer a lot. We are really aiming to break down that boundary and make cancer a conversation that W&L students are interested in having.”

In order to promote cancer awareness, the club posts signs throughout campus and regularly sets up a table in Commons. At the table, they sell event t-shirts, pass out free ribbons, and provide literature on the specific cancer of the month. 100% of the proceeds from all Relay for Life events and sales go directly towards the American Cancer Society.

“[Relay for Life] is such a cool combination of event planning and fundraising, and it’s also for such a great cause,” Buckle said. “At the end of the day, everything goes to charity. You definitely feel really good about it.”

Ultimately, Lafaire said she hopes that Relay for Life will promote advocacy in the W&L community and believes it will be powerful for W&L students to see the connections between the community and cancer.

“Our mission is just to celebrate survivors and just to try to contribute where we can,” Lafaire said. “Everyone is really excited to be there and has a reason to be there. We like to have fun.”