Wellesley and MIT host first joint Relay for Life fundraiser
Published: Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Updated: Thursday, March 15, 2012 00:03
At 6 p.m. on Saturday, March 10, hundreds of people looked on as cancer survivors took a lap together around the track in the Johnson Athletic Center at MIT in order to celebrate the collective victories that have been achieved in battling cancer. The “Survivors Lap” marked the start of the Wellesley-MIT Relay for Life, an all-night, carnival-like event to raise money for the American Cancer Society. Following the Survivors Lap, members of different fundraising teams—most of them students from either Wellesley College or MIT—took turns circling the Johnson track from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. while participating in a range of activities in between laps.
“At the start of the event, a few brave survivors led the way for the opening lap and it was amazing to see all of the people clapping, cheering them on and then joining them on the track, ” Cayla Vila ’15, member of the Wellesley College Relay for Life planning committee, said about the Survivors Lap. “It was really symbolic to see everyone supporting them, and it was a great way to start the night.”
Vila, who was in charge of organizing campus fundraisers, is just one of the 14 members of the Wellesley Relay for Life planning committee who have worked tirelessly to prepare for this year’s Relay event. The group began organizing for Relay back in September, often meeting several times each week to plan for both the event and various fundraisers leading up to the event.
Relay For Life is the largest nationwide fundraising program for the American Cancer Society, with over $4 billion raised since its inception in 1985. This year, Wellesley co-hosted its chapter of Relay for Life with MIT for the first time ever in the hopes of raising $60,000 together. And to the surprise of many, the 1,030 participants that were registered for the Wellesley-MIT Relay for Life not only met this goal, but greatly surpassed the $60,000 mark. Although the Wellesley-MIT Relay for Life estimates approximately $65,567 was raised so far, Jess Haladyna ’12, the co-chair of the Wellesley Relay planning committee and Charlotte Hulme ’12, said that they were recently told by American Cancer Society representatives that the donation total has now reached $78,000, and that many donations are still being counted. Furthermore, donations are still being accepted online.
“I think it’s safe to say that after all the donations are counted, the total will be well over $80,000,” Haladyna said.
“We definitely didn’t expect surpassing our $60,000 fundraising goal by that much money and it just goes to show how interested Wellesley and MIT are in supporting such an important cause,” Vila said about raising so much money. “It really sets the bar high for next year.”
Last year, members of the MIT community raised approximately $42,000 when they hosted Relay for the first time, while members of the Wellesley community raised approximately $27,000 by hosting our first chapter of Relay held on campus. According to Haladyna, the ability for members of the two colleges to collectively raise so much more than they were able to raise last year when they hosted the events separately speaks to the success of co-hosting Relay.
“I think combining the events really made a huge difference, and we definitely want to collaborate again with MIT next year,” Haladyna said. Haladyna also commented on how impressed she was by how many people participated in the event this year. “At Wellesley, I think it’s sometimes difficult to get a lot of people involved in one thing because everyone is so busy with their own endeavors, so I was really amazed by how many people participated,” she said.
The Wellesley team that raised the most money was Wellesley’s Alpha Phi Sigma team, which raised more than $5,000. Phi Sig co-president Hannah Park ’12 said that while their team started out with the goal of raising $1,000, they were quickly able to surpass this goal two weeks before Relay, and as a result, they set out to double their goal to $2,000.
“To our surprise, we met our second goal within 24 hours, which motivated us to continue fundraising and see how successful we could be,” Park said about reaching their $2,000 goal. “Throughout the two weeks, we continuously raised our goals and exceeded our expectations, which was fun to watch. Every time we reached a milestone, we’d celebrate our accomplishment and continue encouraging each other.”
Park explained that a major reason why their fundraising efforts were so successful was because they received a lot of help from Phi Sigma alumnae. “This year we wanted to have a stronger impact, so we reached out to our alums, who blew us away with their positive response and donations.”
In addition to the collaborative aspect of the event, Haladyna believes that the emphasis that organizers from both Wellesley and MIT placed on making the event as fun as possible was also vital to its success. “Relay is all about losing yourself in the celebration,” Haladyna said.
And for Marcia Frimpong ’15, a member of the Society Tau Zeta Epsilon fundraising team, losing herself in the celebration is exactly what she did while she participated in a zumba dance session that took up nearly half of the track.
“I loved the zumba; I’m completely hooked now,” Frimpong said. “I’ve done zumba by myself and I’m pretty terrible, but it was awesome because there was a huge crowd looking just as foolish as you sometimes, so I didn’t really care. It was great.”
Other crowd-pleasing activities in addition to Zumba included a moon bounce, Just Dance 3 on Wii, pilates, a Red Bull paper plane contest, and performances from a number of a capella and dance groups, including the Wellesley/MIT a capella group The Toons and the MIT dance troupe Mocha Moves.
Various teams also operated a variety of fundraising booths, such as a massage booth that was run by members of the Wellesley Stone-Davis team, a makeover station run by members of Wellesley’s fashion club Styletta and a photo booth station run by members of Wellesley’s Blue Cancer Society. A number of teams also sold items to raise money, including a team from Olin College of Engineering, which sold decorated buttons, and the Wellesley College Choir team, which sold chocolate covered lollipops.