Queen’s Relay for Life, a student-run organization at Queen’s University, typically holds a non-competitive relay each spring to fundraise for the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS).
After the relay’s cancelation last March due to the onset of COVID-19 in Canada, Queen’s Relay for Life is fully equipped to deliver a virtual relay this weekend, Co-President Natalie Hanna and Fundraising Coordinator Max Silverman told YGK News.
“Relay is usually a twelve-hour overnight event held in the ARC,” Hanna said. “Groups of students come together [and] everyone walks around the track for twelve hours, [which] symbolizes the battle and journey that a cancer patient goes through [ … ] all the money goes directly to the Canadian Cancer Society.”
The relay is typically marked by three distinct ceremonies.
“We have our opening ceremony, which starts at 7pm,” she said. “That’s when we kick off our night and it symbolizes when a cancer patient is first diagnosed. They have to go through treatment options and that initial shock.”
The luminary ceremony takes place at midnight and traditionally honours those who are currently battling or have lost a battle with cancer, Hanna said. Finally, the relay ends with its closing ceremony at 7am, which “shows the light at end of the tunnel and the amazing work the Canadian Cancer Society is doing in terms of research and cancer prevention.”
This year, the three ceremonies will take place over one weekend, with the opening ceremony on Friday, March 19, the luminary ceremony on Saturday, March 20, and the closing ceremony on Sunday, March 21.
“As a participant, you just have to clock into the Zoom call [ … ] for about an hour or an hour and a half each night,” Silverman said. “You’ll have your camera and mic off and [everyone] follows along together.”
According to Hanna, this year’s relay will deliver “the same activities,” including Zumba at the opening ceremony, musical performances by Owen Riegling and The Codas, the announcement of raffle and silent auction winners at the closing ceremony, and a cheque reveal of the total fundraised amount over the past year.
“[We] encourage people to use the Relay for Life app, which will track your steps over the weekend,” Hanna said. “You can go for a walk outside, you can run on the treadmill, you can go rollerblading, anything that you want to do to stay active [and] you can compare your steps to [your team] and other participants.”
Silverman described last year’s cancelation as “building up anticipation” for this year.
“Whether [the relay is] virtual or in person, I’m so excited to be able to celebrate that accomplishment, do something with my team, and honour all of their efforts,” he said.
Hanna encourages non-participants to raise awareness by reposting Queen’s Relay for Life’s social media materials or contribute to fundraising efforts by donating to individuals or teams on the website’s donation portal.
“On top of fundraising, [our goal] is to get as many people out there and registered as possible,” Silverman said. “[It’s meaningful when] people come out to the event and [experience] these videos, speakers, and activities that we have prepared for them and that are on a valuable and important topic.”
“It’s very personal and even rewarding at the end of the day,” he added. “You’ll get something out of it—a sense of connection, a sense of unity, a sense that you have helped and inspired people.”
Hanna called the virtual relay “powerful and important” for cancer patients grappling with heightened feelings of isolation amid the pandemic.
“I can speak to my personal story,” Silverman said. “I had a very close brush with cancer in 2020 myself, and going through that, by having something so positive to focus on in Relay [ … ] by reaching out to people, by seeing the well wishes and the donations and support of the CCS come in, that, for me, was a positive light in such a dark time.”
“Now that I’m in remission, I’m in a position where I can help enable [that hope] for so many other Canadians and I definitely want to do anything in my power to do that,” he said. “I would also encourage anyone else to do the same, and by showing up [this weekend], by staying active, speaking about it, and making cancer even more of a priority, I think that in itself is such a good thing.”
Registration for Queen’s Relay for Life 2021 is open until 7pm on Friday, March 19. All questions can be directed to [email protected] or @queensurelay on Instagram and Facebook.