Relay For Life features performances, ceremonies

Tufts community members walk during the Luminary Ceremony at Relay for Life in the Gantcher Center in this long exposure on April 11, 2014. A similar ceremony was held at RFL this year. Nicholas Pfosi / The Tufts Daily

Tufts Relay For Life (RFL) hosted its all-night cancer fundraising event in the Gantcher Center. The event began at 6 p.m. Friday and lasted until 6 a.m. Saturday.

The event featured food donated from local restaurants, performances by Tufts entertainment groups, a raffle and four ceremonies throughout the night, according to co-chairs Elana Shapiro and Rachel Coyne, both seniors.

“It’s the culminating event which is something that happens in various communities, at tons of other colleges [and] high schools,” Shapiro said. “The idea is that someone from every team is walking or running or whatever around the track the entire time, and that’s like a symbolic way of showing that no one is giving up on the fight against cancer throughout the entire event.”

RFL’s slogan is “Celebrate, Remember, Fight Back,” which inspires the different stages of the event, according to Coyne. The event begins with an opening ceremony, followed by the Luminaria, then Fight Back before ending with a closing ceremony, Coyne said.

According to Coyne, during the Luminaria, all the lights were turned off and different speakers shared stories of either their own or their loved ones’ battles with cancer. Afterwards, attendees cracked glow sticks and walked out onto the track and completed several laps, Coyne said.

“It’s a manifestation of the actual community that’s like coming out to support each other in this fight … Then there’s Luminaria bags which are like paper lunch bags that people decorate in memory of certain people’s names … So it’s a further reminder that this is a personal fight for people in our community,” Shapiro said.

At around 2:30 a.m., the Fight Back stage was held. This part of the event aims to rejuvenate participants at a time when energy tends to be low, Shapiro said.

“Everyone’s sleepy and definitely a little loopy and so … we hear a speech and do some sort of physical exercise that reminds everyone that you still have the power to do something in the fight, and this year we did zumba,” Shapiro said.

There is not yet a final count on how many people attended the event, but according to Shapiro, 600 people were registered beforehand. This number does not include those who registered at the door.

Coyne estimates that they went into the event with $73,000 raised, and though there is not yet a final count, she predicts they will have raised between $75,000 and $80,000 in total.

Tyler Lueck, head of RFL’s entertainment committee, said the event featured performances by the Amalgamates, Belly Dance, Tap Ensemble, La Salsa, Garba (JumboRaas), Sarabande, Spirit of Color, Tamasha, S-Factor and Bhangra, some of whom offered open classes.

After the Luminaria, several musical acts performed including Like Wolves, solo performer Graham Starr and Blue Ives, Lueck, a junior, said.

This year the event also featured a more educational aspect, according to Coyne.

“This year we had a group of researchers at our event,” she said. “They’re all American Cancer Society-funded researchers, so they kind of held office hours at a table so people could come up to them and talk about the research they’re doing and kind of how they got into it.”

RFL is the culminating event of months of fundraising work done by 49 teams, according to Coyne.

“This year we focused on having fewer teams but more participants, so [we’re] getting bigger teams,” she said. “Usually in the past we have more teams and more participants, but we wanted to focus on getting people signed up and having big teams and kind of having a bigger community in that team.”

According to Lueck, fundraising begins in the fall and is done by sending emails, performing letter-writing campaigns and talking to different potential donors. 

“I think RFL was better than last year,” Lueck told the Daily in an email. “My committee did an amazing job talking to groups and coordinating performances, which made for an easier few weeks before RFL.”

Shapiro was happy with the event and all who participated.

“We were particularly pleased with the number of people who stayed throughout the whole event this year,” she said. “Obviously it’s hard to get people to stay till 6:00 a.m. with Kids Day right after, and it’s always relatively close to finals and the end of the semester and people have a ton of stuff going on … So it was a testament to how much there was going on and how much people enjoyed it early on.”