Thousands of Penn State students and members of the State College community braved the cold and windy conditions over the weekend to participate in the tenth annual Relay For Life of Penn State.
The event kicked off on Saturday afternoon with a speech from the Mission Committee. After the speech, cancer survivors in attendance were honored, then invited to take the first lap with their caregivers. As the survivors and caregivers began their lap, members of the Overall Committee released balloons in honor of those fighting cancer everywhere.
Saturday’s events included performances by several dance groups, a wing eating contest, hair donations, a photo booth, and theme hours. Cancer survivors in attendance were treated to a complimentary dinner, free Mary Kay makeovers, free massages, and various activities throughout the day.
Despite technical difficulties, the highlight of the weekend was the Luminaria Ceremony on Saturday night. Hundreds of lit luminaria bags lined the track at Medlar Field, and cancer survivor and Penn State student Kayla Nakonechni shared her experience with cancer and expressed her thanks for organizations like Relay For Life that strive to find a cure. Participants then walked the track to celebrate survivors, honor those still fighting, and remember those lost to cancer.
Overnight, participants remained on the track despite below freezing temperatures. Popular movies such as Frozen and Mean Girls were shown overnight to keep participants’ spirits up.
Sunday brought warmer temperatures and more activities. The morning started with 8 a.m. Zumba, which was followed by performances by Outcast Dance Group, Singing Lions, and Cara Wojciechowski. Relay For Life volunteers also put on a “stop the bop” style fundraiser by playing “What Does The Fox Say” on repeat until participants donated at least $200.
Later on Sunday afternoon, Jay Paterno spoke words of encouragement at the Fight Back Ceremony, which is designed to inspire and encourage participants to take action in the fight against cancer. Following the Fight Back Ceremony, Mission Overall Allie Leidy spoke about her personal experiences with cancer. Leidy spoke of how she became involved in Relay For Life when her father was diagnosed with melanoma, and became even more invested in the fight when he passed away three days into her freshman year at Penn State. Next, pediatric cancer survivor and current Penn State student Kaitlyn Sukovich spoke about her own battle with cancer.
Following Sukovich’s speech, the closing ceremonies began. First the winners of the raffles were announced by Corporate Sponsorship Overall Kevin Marnatti, and then Overall Chairperson Courtney Zeuner and American Cancer Society Staff Partner Sam Benz took to the stage to announce the top teams and fundraisers. Team IE was the top fundraising team and cancer survivor Kaitlyn Sukovich was the top fundraiser. Finally, the total for Relay For Life of Penn State 2014 was revealed.
130 teams and 1,762 participants raised $111,790.13 for the American Cancer Society, breaking $100,000 for only the third time in event history. More than $50,000 of that total was raised just in the past week, meaning that Relay For Life of Penn State raised roughly $10,000 per day from Monday to Friday.
Relay For Life volunteers and participants were extremely excited about the event’s success.
“All I can say is that I am so incredibly proud of the Overall Committee and Captains that have made this weekend possible,” said Overall Chairperson Courtney Zeuner. “We represent everything that this organization stands for.”