Browser warning

Students Celebrate Life in 16-Hour Walk

Published: April 14, 2011
Last year's Relay for Life of UT raised $65,000 for cancer research. This year's event is expected to exceed last year's efforts.
Last year's Relay for Life of UT raised $65,000 for cancer research. This year's event is expected to exceed last year's efforts.
Every year for almost a decade, Samantha Lauf ’12 has participated in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, a 16-hour walk through the night.

Every year, Lauf walks the track behind the survivors, with the group composed of caregivers. And every year, she lights a candle during the Luminaria Ceremony, honoring her father, Eric, who died nearly 10 years ago from lung cancer.

“I get so overjoyed and exalted during Relay for Life events,” said Lauf, an elementary education major. “I think Relay healed me. Through the years it has helped me to grieve through it all. Now it’s a celebration of life.”

Lauf is the student chairwoman for UT’s Relay for Life event on April 15. There are 51 teams registered with more than 716 participants who will start walking around the intramural field by the stadium at 6 p.m. Friday night, continuing until 10 a.m. Saturday morning.

Every half hour different activities will keep the crowd entertained, from a giant dodge ball game to a drag contest, where a male from each team dresses up to symbolize how women feel outside their own skin during treatment.

Dean of Students Bob Ruday, who has been cancer-free since July 2008, will give the cancer survivor’s speech, and there will be a survivors’ lap and a Luminaria Ceremony to honor and remember those who have lost their lives to cancer. Booths around the field will sell everything from food to apparel to henna designs as additional fundraisers for the American Cancer Society.

So far the teams have raised more than $40,800, nearing their $65,000 goal. Fundraising takes place both prior to and during the event, and proceeds go toward cancer research and outpatient care.

“If you can give back, why not do something incredible?” Lauf said. This year, she will be joined by her mother and two of her brothers who are flying in from Washington, D.C., to walk on her father’s birthday. He would have turned 57 on Friday.

Lucy Monette ’11 also knows what it is like to lose a parent to lung cancer. Her mother, Kathy Rowley, died in 2009. When the American Cancer Society looked to UT to form its own Relay event, Monette didn’t hesitate to lead the effort. She advertised on campus and held her breath for the first planning meeting in 2008. Lauf was one of the only two people who showed up.

Since then, the ladies have seen the event grow from just three organizers to 30 on this year’s committee. Last year they aimed for $40,000 and raised $65,000. This year, they have full confidence in surpassing $65,000.

"The Relay for Life of UT is unique to our community events because it is completely student led and supported,” said Susanna Doyle, community representative for the American Cancer Society’s Greater Tampa Unit. “The students have done an amazing job over the last three years, and their efforts have taken them to the No. 1 ranked collegiate event in the Tampa Bay area."

When Monette graduates with her psychology degree, she wants to work in art therapy, facilitating group therapy through painting. Lauf’s goal is to run a center for kids to have a consistent place to go to while their parents are undergoing cancer treatment. Both say that Relay for Life will always be a part of their lives, and they both feel an urgency to never waste a day.

“I’m 20, (Lucy) is 22, and we’ve impacted the world in some way,” Lauf said. “And we’re not done yet.”

Jamie Pilarczyk, Web Writer
Sign up for UT Web Alerts