Joined Together


Mere mention of the word “cancer” evokes emotion. It’s rare for someone to not be affected in some capacity by this deadly, debilitating disease. However, discussing cancer can be difficult. That’s one of the reasons that for nine years, USD has hosted the annual American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life event, which invites the campus community to come together in solidarity and support.

“This is when everybody can come to one place, for a set amount of time, and talk about it,” says Emma Doolittle, student event director for this past April’s USD Relay for Life event.

Games at Relay for Life event at USDRelay for Life events demonstrate USD’s commitment to fundraise in support of cancer research. Doolittle says the 2017 event raised $15,000 through the work of multiple teams within Fraternity and Sorority Life, the USD chapter of Colleges Against Cancer, the USD HERO Club, Outdoor Adventures, USD LifeSavers, a team comprised of USD faculty and staff, and others. More than $200,000 has been raised since 2009.

The 18-hour event — which begins on a Friday afternoon and runs overnight, spilling into late Saturday morning — mixes seriousness with fun.

An opening walking lap on USD’s Valley Field is taken by cancer survivors. A second lap honors caretakers. From there, all participants begin to do laps. The military-connected USD HERO Club members perform the circuit while wearing a 50-pound rucksack in the spirit of their military-style workouts.

Team activities in 2017 included bubble soccer, Wiffle ball and a giant Jenga game. Being together has the most resonance during the evening luminaria ceremony, when students and staff share their personal stories. Participants do laps in semi-darkness, with the only light coming from paper luminaria bags that line the track with messages of love and hope written on each.

“This light represents the love we share, it burns bright for others to see and is brightest in the hearts and souls of those who will always be part of us,” said Doolittle. — Ryan T. Blystone

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