Hundreds walk for cancer

By Middlebury Campus

On April 29, the College held its annual Relay for Life in Kenyon Arena. The event was created by the American Cancer Society to raise funds and awareness for cancer research. Attended by hundreds of students, faculty and staff, the event succeeded in raising nearly $125,000, an increase over last year’s $111,000.

Relay participants stayed up through the night, enjoying entertainment such as Zumba and Riddim performances.

The opening ceremonies began at 5 p.m. with addresses from President of the College Ronald D. Liebowitz and “Miss Vermont” Caroline Bright. Following the opening addresses, two cancer survivors spoke to the participants and then walked a lap around the arena. Entertainment was provided by Riddim, Zumba, SIM, On Tap and other Middlebury student groups.

Katie Ruymann ’11, co-chair of the Relay for Life committee, described the ceremony that followed the entertainment.

“We put up pictures of survivors and quotes of why we relay,” Ruymann said. “Then we turned off all the lights and did silent lap in which the track was lit from glowsticks inside in memorium bags.” The lap is dedicated to those who have been lost.

In line with the night’s theme “Made in Vermont,” Miss Vermont opened the ceremonies with a speech about a previous Miss Vermont’s experience with cancer. She explained the need to join together and connect with others who have had similar experiences with cancer.

The event lasted through the night until the closing ceremonies at 8 a.m. the next morning. Relay participants took shifts walking laps around the track and sleeping in the tents inside Kenyon Arena. They also enjoyed entertainment varying from music to board games to movies.

The Relay had two parts: one of remembrance and one geared toward the future. The fighting back segment of the relay featured speakers Associate Professor of Biology Jeremy Ward and Sammi Re ’14.5, whose mother passed away from cancer just before she matriculated at Middlebury.

Ward emphasized “the dangers of tobacco smoking,” Ruymann said. The other presentations also focused on future prevention and education regarding cancer.

“We don’t want our next generation to have to suffer from cancer and are hoping that we can do everything we can to achieve a better future,” Relay for Life co-chair Brittany Gendron ’12 said.

Ruymann noted the connections created by Relay for Life beyond normal everyday interactions.

“You could go through your whole career at Middlebury and never know how cancer touched one of your friends, someone on your hall or someone in your class,” Ruymann said. “It really helps us see beyond our everyday Middlebury extracurricular activities and really be touched by someone else’s personal story.”

Gendron agreed and emphasized the fact that the event wasn’t just about the College community, but the town as well.

“It really brings not only the College but the Middlebury community at large together over similar issues,” said Gendron. She recalled that, “At one point we had a huge group hug because we came upon the realization about how precious life is and how lucky we were to have one another.”

While the weather did change the original planning of the event, the co-chairs believed holding it inside was just as successful — if not more so — than in previous the years.

“Inside it was cozy because when it’s outside people camp out on the outside of the track and can often split people up,” Gendron said. In the arena, tents were placed close together, offering the participants close interaction.

The Relay for Life committee spent the entire year preparing for the event, raising money, organizing entertainment and coordinating keynote speakers and other logistics months before the actual event takes place. The committee has over 50 volunteers from both the town and the College.

“We want to thank everyone who participated and helped out with the relay,” said Ruymann. “It was an event that really showed how individuals on a personal level can come together toward change.”


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