As Relay for Life draws closer, Saint Louis University is in the midst of one of its biggest student-led fundraising drives. Each year, Relay for Life, an American Cancer Society Program, raises money to find a cure for cancer and raise cancer awareness. There are many separate events that take place all over the country and world, including at Saint Louis University.
This year’s event will be held on April 20 at Robert R. Hermann Stadium on the Saint Louis University campus, but much of the work takes place before that.
“We start planning in September and we begin fundraising in November, and it runs through August,” said Junior Megan Strole, Fundraising Chair.
Relay for Life, or ‘Relay’, is highly visible on campus and its fundraising promotions are a regular occurrence. These promotions do bring in money, but many of them contribute to the ‘raising awareness’ part of Relay. The real money, according to Strole, comes from online donations.
“Online last year we raised $109,000. I think a lot of that is from participants,” she said.
This year, Strole estimates that the current total is about $30,000 (as of Feb 25), with a goal of $150,000. They have significant ground to cover, but Strole isn’t worried yet.
“The biggest push comes after Spring Break, because that’s when people go home and get a chance to ask for donations,” she said.
When students come back from break, one of Strole’s favorite fundraising events will start, 48 in 48. The goals of this promotion are simple, to encourage all participants to raise $48 for Relay in 48 hours, and also to gain more participants.
People interested in Relay can join teams or take part individually. In both capacities, they try to raise money and promote Relay leading up to the April 20 event. Senior Victoria Hensley, Co-Chair of Relay for Life, says people looking to participate can sign up either online or in-person at Relay tables in the Busch Student Center. Cancer survivors can sign up for free, and others can sign up for 15$.
Hensley says that last year there were about 1,300 participants, but this year they are hoping to reach over 1,500. The participants are all led by a 53-member steering committee that is responsible for the promotions, event planning and communication. These members are what makes Relay a mostly student-led event.
Hensley elaborates, “The event is a primarily student led initiative, but we do receive support from our advisors. Andrea Gruger is our collateral advisor that helps us deal with student incidents, Justin Vilbig is our advisor from the Center for Service and Community Engagement (this is where our organization calls home), and Bobby Wassel is our financial advisor.”
Once participants sign up, Relay and its committee want to make sure they are well-connected. Amanda Eagan is Communications Chair and works to keep participants up-to-date with everything going on. She uses a variety of methods to accomplish this.
“ We do a lot of flyering and digital signage for big events. We have a sheet sign in the BSC and a banner in the quad. We have text messaging systems to let participants know about meetings. Social media is really big for us,” she said.
While Eagan uses many online forms of communication, she believes in the power of face-to-face interaction as well.
“We tried doing both. In person works better,” she said.
Eagan enjoys using the connections of the steering committee in her role.
“Everyone on our committee can get involved. They all have a passion for what we’re doing.”
Through all the work that Strole, Hensley and Eagan put in, they stay focused on the goals, increasing cancer awareness now, and finding a cure for cancer in the future.
Relay for Life’s main event will take place April 20 in Robert R. Hermann Stadium.