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The Blue & Gray Press | July 18, 2019

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Students walk all night in solidarity for cancer survivors

As she walked around the track field in the dark, junior Catie LeBouton thought of her grandmother. When LeBouton was two years old, her grandmother lost her life to cancer, the first of many people in LeBouton’s life who would battle cancer.
During the April 5 Relay For Life, LeBouton and fellow University of Mary Washington students and faculty walked the track from 6 p.m. that evening until 7 a.m. on April 6.
Together, participants raised $42,292.10 to support the American Cancer Society. Relayers worked in groups to walk through the night, with someone from each team remaining on the track at all times.
The Relay is meant to represent more than just walking in circles, as the effort exerted by its participants correlates to the suffering experienced by cancer patients. The hour between 2 and 3 a.m. is supposed to symbolize the beginning of cancer treatment, when the body starts to feel weak and exhaustion begins to set in. The hour from 5 to 6 a.m. represents when treatment ends, the body is at its weakest, but hope is in sight, just as the sun rises.
UMW President Richard Hurley began the event by making a personal speech, expressing his own grief and experience with loved ones who suffered from cancer. Volunteers then introduced the first lap of Relay, the “Survivor’s Lap,” which is walked by all cancer survivors while the other participants cheer them on. UMW’s show choir, Encore, performed a mash-up of “I Believe I Can Fly” by R. Kelly and “Fly” by Nicki Minaj during this walk.
Each participant joined the relay for various reasons. Not only survivors relayed, but friends and family members of those who have had cancer, such as LeBouton.
“When my parents found out about the Relay for Life in my hometown, it became a family tradition of sorts. This was my sixteenth year of participating in Relay. Five years ago, my mom was diagnosed with melanoma, which is a very deadly skin cancer. Luckily, it was cleanly removed, but one of my high school classmates died from lymphoma only a year or two after that,” said LeBouton, who is on the planning committee for the relay event.
Lebouton was also impacted by cancer when her friends father died from acute Leukemia.
“Most recently, and perhaps the most painful, was feeling hopeless to help my best friend and her family when her father suddenly died one night of undiagnosed acute leukemia,” said LeBouton.
The reason for the crowd’s participation appeared along the track, in small bags with candles, with names written on them of loved ones. Teams also tried to put up lanterns in honor of individuals who have been lost, and, despite difficulties with the wind, managed to send a few into the sky.
Other clubs and bands came out to support Relay for Life, including One Note Stand, Alter Egos and Save the Arcadian. Events to keep participants awake included Mr. Relay, won by sophomore Ian Spangler, Relay Idol, a Glow Stick Lap and Zumba Dancing.
BellACapella performed during the Luminaria Ceremony, which was held in honor of those who have lost their battles with cancer. This ceremony showed just how great the number of people was at the event whose lives had been affected by this disease.
“I relay for all of these people, but the fact that I’m always worried about who will be diagnosed next is what really makes me want to see something change, and fast,” LeBouton said.