home News Relay For Life | Jeffrey Zalesin

Relay For Life | Jeffrey Zalesin

relay for life Relay for Life, an international campaign dedicated to fight cancer through community walkathons, will come to Cork for the first time on 22 and 23 February, when the UCC Cancer Society hosts a Relay event at Mardyke Arena.

The 24-hour fundraising extravaganza also marks a coming of age for Cancer Soc, a young society that began with the hope of bringing Relay to UCC. Karen O’Neill, a founding member of CancerSoc who is now its public relations officer, said that students formed the group after the Irish Cancer Society encouraged them to start a Relay initiative.

“We started off as just a Relay for Life committee, but we decided that we should become a society,” O’Neill said. “We thought we would be stronger that way.”

Now that the committee members have been working on the Relay project for more than a year, O’Neill said, they feel an emotional attachment to the campaign.

“We’ve really come to love it, even though we’ve never been to one yet,” she said.

Relay for Life is not an athletic competition, but it does require volunteers to form teams and engage in physical activity. Each team must make sure that at least one member is walking around the track at all times during the event—a gesture of solidarity with cancer patients, who never get a break from the disease. O’Neill said that about 20 teams had signed up as of last week.

The exercise component of Relay is part of an effort to prevent cancer by encouraging healthy lifestyles, O’Neill said.

“The whole essence of it is that we want to show people that cancer is beatable and to drum up positivity for people,” she added.

O’Neill said that despite the weighty theme of Relay, CancerSoc is “trying to make it as fun as possible,” both on and off the track. The walkathon itself will include such lighthearted variations as a “Gangnam Style” lap. Meanwhile, volunteers on the sidelines will be able to enjoy music arranged by UCC’s Live Music Society and DJ Society, as well as activities like a version of the dating show Take Me Out.

The event will also have its share of serious moments, such as a Survivors’ Lap for the cancer survivors in attendance. O’Neill said that about 30 survivors had agreed to come, although some may have to cancel if weather conditions are poor because of their illness.

O’Neill added that the committee is particularly looking forward to the Candle of Hope Lap, a nighttime ritual in which Relay participants carry candles dedicated to people who have suffered from cancer. Supporters can buy candles in support of a living cancer patient or in memory of a life cut short by the disease. O’Neill, for example, has purchased a candle to honor an uncle who died of cancer when she was a child.

In addition to raising money for cancer treatment and prevention, the CancerSoc committee hopes that the Relay will improve relations between UCC students and other Cork residents, some of whom have lately complained about students’ “rowdiness,” O’Neill said.

“We just want to show the good things students can do as well,” she said, adding that the entire Cork community is invited to participate in Relay.

The committee members initially planned to hold a Relay in 2012, but they were forced to delay the event because they had trouble getting teams to participate and working out a schedule with Mardyke, O’Neill said.

“We didn’t really understand how much of an undertaking it was,” she said.

Despite the logistical hurdles, O’Neill said, Cancer Soc wants to turn Relay into an annual UCC event. She said that the committee is hoping for high turnout and a positive reaction, which would bode well for the future of Relay in Cork.

“We want to make it really, really strong so that when we pass it on to new committee members there will be a really strong foundation,” she said.