Relay for Life hosts JumBonnaroo to generate awareness, raise money

Tufts Relay For Life hosted its biannual JumBonnaroo music festival on Nov. 21 and 22 to raise money for the American Cancer Society (ACS).

The musical performances, which took place in fraternities Theta Chi and ATO of Massachusetts, featured Tufts bands Rollersnakes, Waldo, Market Basket and Shark Saddle, and served the dual purpose of spotlighting talent at Tufts while raising money and awareness for the ACS, according to Relay For Life Special Events Co-Chair Benjamin Silver, a junior.

Silver, the event’s primary organizer, said the idea was first implemented last spring in an effort to directly engage the Tufts campus with Relay throughout the year. This year’s event sold out of individual tickets and wristbands for two-day access, boasting 436 attendees and garnering $2,482 in proceeds, as well as an immeasurable amount of buzz across campus, Silver added.

“I rebranded [JumBonnaroo] from an event called ‘Party For Life,’ which Relay For Life used to do, where we had philanthropy parties at different fraternity houses,” he said. “I moved the emphasis away from the drinking culture aspect of the parties to the music, to something that the school was more comfortable being behind and promoting. And I think that made it really successful.”

Along with Special Events Co-Chair Sabrina Pearson, a sophomore, Silver explained that he has been working to organize the event since the start of the semester and hopes to see JumBonnaroo expand in the future.

“My job as a special events chair for Relay is to promote Relay throughout the year before the event in April, and this is really a good opportunity to do that,” he said. “So rather than just do it once in the spring, I want to do it twice a year to help brand Relay.”

The whole event was contingent upon securing the right bands and fraternities to host them, according to Tufts Relay for Life Co-Chair Elana Shapiro, a senior. Theta Chi Social Chair Jason Rathman said that cancer is a salient philanthropic issue within his fraternity this semester and is of particular interest to brothers, so it made sense that Theta Chi would host Waldo and Rollersnakes on Friday evening.

“We have two philanthropy chairs, and our recent event was a Tufts Zombie Run … and all of the proceeds from that went to benefit the Dana Farber Research Institute and the Jimmy Fund,” Rathman, a sophomore, said. “So cancer is something that is pretty important to our house. We have a lot of brothers whose families have been affected by cancer, so it was sort of just an obvious thing that this would be part of a social philanthropy event.”

Rathman also emphasized that the event showcases Greek organizations in a more positive light and could help to dispel stigmas associated with fraternities.
“Greek life is capable of doing more than just your typical fraternity parties,” he said. “We do things that are important, and we’re a really big contributing member of our community.”

Greg Warns, a guitarist and vocalist in Shark Saddle, explained that since the band’s founding in October 2013, it has only played in one fraternity. For both him and Shark Saddle, JumBonnaroo presented an interesting new venue for spreading their music, he added.

“It’s a good cause, and a lot of people [were] there,” Warns, a sophomore, said. “It’s … more energy, more of a show instead of a frat party.”

Shapiro and fellow Relay For Life Co-Chair Rachel Coyne explained that in the days leading up to the performances, much of what remained on the agenda entailed garnering publicity for the event through media such as Facebook and posters plastered across the campus. In an effort to promote the work of the ACS and the event as a whole, they also arranged a speaker series on the Tuesday prior to JumBonnaroo, an element unique to this year.

“We had three American Cancer Society grant recipients come in and talk about their research,” Coyne, a senior, said. “We partnered with the Premedical Society. They really brought together where the money we are raising is going. Seventy-two cents of every dollar [that] goes to the ACS … goes to research, advocacy, education and patient services.”

She explained that the speaker series provided a tangible representation of fundraising efforts coming to fruition and also made JumBonnaroo, and ultimately the goals of Tufts Relay For Life, accessible to a wider array of students.

Bridget Gilroy, the ACS representative who works directly with the Tufts Relay For Life chapter, echoed Coyne’s statements and further elaborated that the grantees’ work at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute is funded by nearly $1 million directly from the ACS.

Gilroy emphasized that the ACS is the largest non-governmental funder of cancer research, and explained that in her eyes, what sets the organization apart from others devoted to battling cancer is its focus on human relations.

“Relay is the largest fundraising event in the world,” she said. “Since its inception in 1985, it has raised $5 billion. Tufts has been doing Relay for 11 years and has raised over $861,000 for ACS.”

The Relay For Life event will take place in April in the Gantcher Center, and one-fifth of the student body is expected to participate, according to Silver.
“It’s an all-night fundraiser — 12 hours — and it is supposed to mirror the struggle of someone who is dealing with cancer,” he said. “People sleep over, and there is a lot of food and activity and you walk around. You’re supposed to have someone on your team walk the track throughout the whole night, and last year we raised $75,000, and the year before it was close to $100,000.”

Shapiro and Coyne encouraged both teams and individuals to sign up and appeal to those around them to advance the organization’s efforts, whether through donating money or time.

“It’s more than an event, it’s an experience,” Gilroy said. “It’s a community of people who want to fight back … and instead of letting cancer win, you are doing something about it. It’s really inspiring.”