Last weekend a group of the lightweight women spent our Saturday night a little differently than usual. Senior Claire Flanagan reflected on a special event that the team took part in:
Rather than going out to dinner or staying in to do work we spent the night in the indoor track on campus for the Relay for Life, an event organized to raise awareness and funds for the American Cancer Society. Relay for Life is a huge event that brings people together to remember those we have lost to cancer, support those who are still fighting and celebrate those who have survived their battle with the disease. This was the first year that Relay was held at MIT and the first time that most people on our relay team had participated so we didn't know exactly what to expect.
Team members take turns walking laps around the track all night long, from 6pm to 6am the following morning, to represent the tireless efforts of the fight against cancer. When we first arrived at the track to set up a spot for our team to spend the next 12 hours, it was exciting to see the huge number of people from all across campus that came out to support the cause. The energy was incredibly positive and it was clear that everyone was ready to have a good time. Throughout the night there were plenty of activities to participate in whenever you weren't walking, like yoga and zumba and a moonbounce, performances by several MIT a capella and dance groups, and fundraising booths to add to the fundraising efforts leading up to the event. The event organizers informed us that fundraising for the MIT relay had far surpassed their goal of $25,000 in donations, reaching over $39,000!
As the hours went by, we were certainly becoming very tired but the spirit of the event kept us going all night (with a few naps here and there). During the night a few cancer survivors who were also local college students addressed the crowd. Their words were truly inspiring, expressing the importance of never giving up, staying positive and appreciating what we have no matter how small. Perhaps the most moving aspect of the night is what is known as the Luminaria ceremony. All participants gathered at the center of the track and were each given their own glow sticks. When the speaker announced our reason to relay we were instructed to crack our glow stick and step onto the track. A small cluster broke off from the greater mass with the prompt "I relay for a parent or grandparent" and filled in the track carrying their small torch. With each prompt, "I relay for an aunt or uncle" or "I relay for a friend or neighbor", more and more people filled the track and added their light to the glow. When the final group of relayers joined the glowing stream around the track the effect was really beautiful. We don't always take the time to consider how cancer impacts us personally but we all have a reason to relay and I thought this part of the night was really poignant.
Overall the event was really fun. It was a great opportunity for athletes on our team to come together in a context outside of the boathouse and do something outside of our normal routine to help a great cause. We always have a great time when we get together and Relay was no exception! Relay for Life is all about staying positive and never giving up which are definitely attitudes that the lightweight women work to encourage. I'm glad we were able to represent at the Relay for Life as a team.