May 25, 2016
Students Fight Cancer with All-Night Relay

Charitable event unites community in spirit of hope and support

On a cool Friday night in April, nearly 1,000 people lingered on the University Lawn, where a makeshift track had been set up and lined with candles. Students and members of the Brookland community were participants in The Catholic University of America Relay for Life, an all-night event raising money to support research and aid for those fighting cancer.

Junior Lauren Layton, who lost her mother to cancer last summer, stepped on stage to address the hushed crowd. Her words began the night’s luminaria ceremony, which honored those who have died of cancer. 

“Let us admire the candles that represent our love and respect for those who have battled cancer and our hope that someday there will be a cure for this disease,” she said. “Please remember those who have lost this battle, those who have beaten the enemy, and those who are currently enduring the treatments for cancer.”

The 12-hour long relay, which began the evening of Friday, April 15, is one of the largest charitable events held at Catholic University each year, said Lianne Donohue, president of the University chapter of Colleges Against Cancer.

“The relay is supposed to mirror the process of cancer, from the diagnosis and then going through the process of treatment, when it’s in the middle of the night and it’s really dark,” Donohue said. “Once you hit dawn, you feel hope and you see that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Throughout the night, teams of participants took turns walking laps around the track for two-hour shifts. Local businesses contributed food and on-campus music groups like Take Note, Redline, and Do You Want to Go to the Movies performed for those walking.

By morning, the event had raised a grand total of $60,000 with more than 700 participants.

Donohue, who has been involved in Relay for Life since her freshman year, said her favorite thing about the event is watching the University community come together for a cause that everyone can relate to.

“Everyone wants to get involved with this,” she said. “I’ve been lucky enough that I haven’t lost any close family members, but I’ve had a lot of close friends who have been affected by cancer.”

Layton, who served as co-director for this year’s relay, chose to get involved her freshman year after learning her goddaughter’s mother had been diagnosed with cancer. Her mother was diagnosed during her sophomore year.

“This took on a whole new meaning after that and I dove in headfirst,” she said. “By the time we had Relay for Life last year, I had found a whole community that was supportive of me.”

That network of support is what Layton likes best about the relay. She stays involved as a way to find support and help others who are affected by the disease.

“That’s why a lot of people get involved,” Layton said. “You find a community of people who want to fight cancer because they’ve all been affected by it in some way. Then it becomes this huge thing where you can come together for one night and raise a lot of money. It’s amazing.”