This past Friday was the 7th annual Relay for Life at Saint Anselm College. Last year I was unable to attend, but this year I made sure my Friday was free and I put together a team from the Meelia Center. In case you don't know what Relay for Life is, it is a national fundraiser that brings communities together to fight back against cancer. At St. A's, Relay is held in the Carr Center (the big gym). Teams are given areas to put their stuff on the floor of the gym, and students bring anything from blankets and pillows to TV's and couches. Around everyone's stuff there is a"track" for people to walk around throughout the night (hence, "Relay").The event runs from 6pm on Friday until 6am on Saturday morning and during the long night there is a ton of activities! Music is played all night long, there is a musical-chairs competition, a talent show, a dance-off, the Limbo, a hair-donation (where girls actually get their hair cut in front of everyone to donate for wigs) and plenty of food. There is also a one-hour period called the "Luminarium Walk." During this period everyone is asked to walk for the full hour in complete silence. The lights are turned off and the only lights are those from the luminary bags placed around the track. On each of the luminary bags are names that students have written of family members or friends who have been affected by cancer. While the community is walking in silence together, a list of names of people affected by cancer is read aloud.
Before the Luminarium Walk, I heard people start to whisper that this was their favorite part of the evening. I did not realize until afterwards that I completely agreed with them. The hour in silence and solidarity was an extremely powerful moment for me. Though no one was talking, I felt the strongest connection to my Saint Anselm community that I have ever had. People were walking together, some holding hands, some crying, some comforting. But everyone was together for the same reason. I saw students reach out to people they did not even know. The Luminary Walk was a perfect display of the love that is alive in the Anselmian community. And I failed to mention earlier that over 825 students showed up for this event. That is nearly half of our student body. It was amazing.
Yesterday in class, one of my English professors who was recently diagnosed with cancer, took time to thank the members of my class who attended Relay for Life. She said to us, "I had never been to Relay for Life before this year. I know you were not all there for me, but I want to thank you for being there. It meant so much to me. It was one of the most wonderful moments of my life, and I plan on going every year now until I retire." Her words sent goosebumps up my arms. Cancer is an awful tragedy that can strike a family at any time and I would not wish it on anyone. But on Friday I saw how tragedies can bring together communities in the best of ways. I too plan on attending Relay for Life at Saint Anselm College until I graduate.