By Laurel Stone
Youngstown State University’s Relay for Life branch, Guins Against Cancer, held their relay from 12-8 p.m. Saturday, April 17 at the Watson and Tressel Training Site.
The purpose of the relay is to raise money for the American Cancer Society and aid in funding research to find new treatments, and, hopefully, a cure to end cancer. The highest known record for fundraising at YSU was $47,771, set in 2019. At the end of the event Saturday, the total raised was $49,157, breaking the record set in pre-pandemic times — with the site still accepting donations.
One last-minute donation was given by YSU President Jim Tressel and his wife, Ellen, who pledged $1,000 at the event. Tressel gave a speech explaining why the cause is important to him, personally, and gave words of encouragement.
“Forty years ago yesterday, I lost my brother to cancer … I think about him constantly. I’m so proud of our students for what they’re doing, making an effort. We are going to beat cancer. We have brilliant students here and throughout the world — we are going to beat cancer. We just have to keep working on it and working on it and making a difference,” Tressel said.
Many of the students participating in the event do so in memory of a family member or loved one who had, or has, cancer. One of those students is event lead Devan Snyder, a junior biology major.
“I relay for my Aunt Kim, who was diagnosed with breast cancer a couple of years ago, and also for my grandma who passed away of cancer in 2013,” Snyder said.
Caitlyn Risley, another event lead and senior criminal justice major, spoke about some safety measures put in place this year in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This year, of course, we have different rules and regulations. Everyone has to wear a mask, which kind of sucks. It makes the speeches a little bit harder, but we are doing everything that we can to keep it socially distant and keep it safe,” Risley said.
In addition to these guidelines, there was an hour time slot reserved for survivors to come to the relay when no one else was allowed in the building except for the members of the executive leadership team. This was done to ensure the event was as safe as possible for immunocompromised participants.
There were various activities for attendees to participate in, such as a raffle, relay races, Minute to Win It games, yoga and Zumba. There were about 30 raffle baskets to choose from, containing items ranging from YSU apparel and swag — such as a football signed by President Tressel — to toy sets and a movie-night basket. Minute to Win It challenges included cup stacking, cup pong and cookie stacking. The individual relay events included balancing a pingpong ball on an upside-down spoon, crab walking and one-legged hopping.
Once every hour, the lights in the WATTS would briefly darken to let the lights of the luminaria — paper bags decorated in the memory of a loved one with a candle inside — shine as relayers walked a lap in silence and in memory.
The event concluded around 8 p.m. with one final lap in silence led by the flickering lights of the luminaria.
“Thank you everybody who has donated and offered your support for anything we have been able to provide through this, it’s been really great,” Snyder said.