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Extracurricular Spotlight: Relay For Life

Relay For Life is the number one fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. It’s a year-round fundraiser where people form teams and raise money on their own. The actual event is held in the Spring to celebrate the efforts. Relays are not actual races - there are usually performances, ceremonies, fun games, and foods. There are also ceremonies to honor survivors as well as those who have lost their fight against cancer. All money raised goes towards supporting cancer research as well as patients and their families.

I remember going to my first community-wide Relay For Life event in 6th grade. I continued attending throughout middle school then joined by high school team. When my uncle, who was my father figure throughout childhood, lost his fight against cancer, I knew that this was a cause I wanted to continue giving to for the rest of my own life.

Harvard’s Relay For Life is under the larger organization of the Harvard Cancer Society. Some of the other things that the Cancer Society does is bone marrow drives, Alex’s Lemonade Stand (a nonprofit for childhood cancer), and Camp Kesem (an organization that supports the children of cancer patients). I joined the Harvard Cancer Society my freshmen year after finding them at the student activities fair. I had already known that I wanted to join some kind of volunteering/community serving organization at Harvard. Harvard has a ton! A lot of groups are united under the Philip Brooks House Association.  Because I had already worked with Relay For Life in the past and wanted to honor my uncle, I was naturally drawn to the Cancer Society! 



My freshmen year I served as publicity co-chair. As of sophomore year, I’ve been working as one of the co-directors! Because we are partners with the American Cancer Society at large, we work closely with an ACS employee throughout the year. Our event was actually merged with MIT last year so now we are Relay For Life of Harvard and MIT.





My main job has been focused on fundraising and sponsorship. I help reach out to national and local companies to ask for monetary donations, food donations, or item donations. The food and items are used at our actual event for things such as Survivor Dinner and Survivor Gift Baskets. Being able to oversee this area as well as the bigger team has taught me a lot. It’s been really cool, albeit sometimes stressful, to realize that I am vital to making something actually happen. Throughout my career at Harvard, I have seen both the Relay team and event grow. And I’m super excited to see what the event is like this coming April! One of the most meaningful parts of Relay for me is our Luminariea Ceremony. Attendees can by luminariea bags and decorate them for loved ones. During the ceremony, we ask people to light their bags’ glowsticks. Usually this happens in steps, first we ask for those who have had parents with cancers, then siblings, aunts and uncles, and so on. It is really powerful to hear the simulatanous cracking of glowsticks echoing throughout the room. We then all do a lap around the track in silence together to remember those who have lost their fights. 




I am so thankful for Relay for teaching me important management skills, how to do outreach, giving me a way to give back myself, and for giving me a space to honor my uncle. While it can be time consuming and stressful, it is so rewarding to know that I am doing something meaningful. 

About the author

Hi everyone! I’m Alexis, and I’m a senior at Harvard College. I’m originally from Radford, Virginia, and I live in Cabot House here on campus. I study History of Science, and I plan to enroll in a... View full profile

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