Relay for Life event huge success

Dylan Brockmeyer

Staff Writer

Organized by the dedicated committee members of Trinity College’s Cancer society, the first ever Relay for Life in the college’s history took place on Wednesday, March the 5th. The mantra of Relay for Life is “celebrate, remember, and fight back.” For 24 hours, about 20 spirited teams walked, ran, skipped, hula hooped, bounced around on bouncy balls, played tip-rugby, and raised awareness to the tremendous struggles and amazing feats that come from fighting back against cancer.

In tradition, the Relay begins with celebrating life. Survivors of cancer are honored and praised for their strength and strong will to have outlived the horrible disease by giving speeches and commencing the relay with the survivorship lap, the first lap. Trinity’s relay began with a speech from a survivor diagnosed at age 42, Bronagh McAvinchey. She spoke a few brief words on her family’s personal battle with cancer and amidst some light jokes and encouraging words of thanks to the participants, she gave inspiring insight for how to keep positive. In her unique case, she and all five of her sisters tested positive for the BRCA1 gene and each underwent breast cancer treatment simultaneously. Despite the hardships they went through, Mrs. McAvinchey related a story and said, “In many stages of your life you’ll find there’s sometimes not a light at the end of the tunnel at all and sometimes you’ll not even be able to find the freakin’ tunnel.” She had relayed these words to a friend and upon seeing this friend again years later, Mrs. McAvinchey said, “She couldn’t see any good way out of it. She saw me walking along the road and said to herself, there’ll be a light at the end of the tunnel, I just have to find the tunnel again.” After her words, herself and a few fellow survivors took the honorary first lap cheered on by all the participants to kick-off the event.

From the first lap to the last, the energy and motivation of the relayers never died. For eight hours students tagged in and out for their fellow team members, even through the few spits of rain and the chilling wind that rose as the sun set the relayers were relentless. The hourly deliveries of pizza from Dominos, hot chili in the marquis tent and live music helped greatly to keep spirits up as well. The live performances featured some original songs on acoustic guitar by Jake Nice – an exchange student from Denver, Colorado – and the Trinitones. The smiling, laughing, and fun never stopped. There was a tip-rugby game along-side the relay circle, dancing to some of today’s hits as they blared over the speaker, and a general feeling of camaraderie and respect as everyone kept in mind what the event was all about. First year Hannah Gilmartin said, “I think it’s important to have events that a lot of people take part in because it kind of gets a good spirit going and it’s nice to get a bit of hopefulness because cancer affects a lot of people and it’s a big challenge, and it’s nice to be a part of something where a lot of people are involved.”

At 9 PM, the Relay moved indoors to the third floor of the sports centre for the Candle of Hope ceremony. During this stage of the event small candle bags are illuminated and relayers walk in silence to commemorate the lives of those lost to cancer. Often the Candle of Hope Ceremony takes place on an outdoor track where thousands of candle bags, decorated with loving messages or happy pictures, are lit by the relayers so as to light the path overnight. The Trinity Cancer Society created their own unique touch on this tradition by lining a small court in the sports hall with bags lit up by glowsticks. Relayers took a few minutes pause from walking to each stand by a bag as president of the society Sarah McAvinchey asked them to light a glowstick and sit to honor the person for whom they were relaying. Slowly, the candle bags were lit and the entire room of about 70 people took a seat. A few speeches and stories were told of family and friends that had been deeply loved yet taken by cancer. To further honor deceased loved ones the Trinity Choral Society sang “Arms of the Angel” and then a few laps were taken in silence as committee members read aloud for what people were relaying. “I relay for my mother, my father, my brother, my sister, my aunt, my uncle, my grandparents, finding a cure…” After such an emotional period, and to keep the energy level high, the tunes kept playing and at the halfway mark people formed conga lines, walked backwards, walked blindfolded, made McDonalds chip runs, even Pitch Perfect was put on. Into the late night/early morning there were always at least 20 people walking, no team ever quit.

Those that were on break took naps and camped out on the courts in sleeping bags and blankets or whatever else could be used to camp. Although everyone seemed groggy and tired when the Relay moved back out onto the cricket pitch at 8 AM, the scones from Avoca and sandwiches from O’Briens helped keep stamina up for just a bit longer. The determination to walk for 24 hours and show the support for all those affected by cancer was impressive to say the least.Overall, the turnout for the first ever Relay for Life at Trinity was outstanding. Sarah McAvinchey, now a third year, had taken up the task and been working on this event since her election as secretary in second year in the society. Last year an event was held off campus, but she said that this year the society worked to jump through whatever hoops necessary to raise awareness on campus and get the student body more involved. When asked if she was happy with the results Sarah said, “It’s so good seeing everyone coming together to do it. I couldn’t be happier. For the first time we had huge numbers… a lot of money raised for cancer research.” For anyone that missed it this year, don’t worry. I got a big “Hell yes!” from the president that next year the Relay will be bigger and better and loads of fun. Trinity will keep kicking cancer’s ass one step at a time.

Phot: Sinead Baker