Survivors honored at Relay for Life

When Pat Moseley found out she had developed breast cancer, she was determined to win the battle her mother lost in 1996.

After a lumpectomy, six weeks of radiation and five years of intensive medication, Moseley can count herself among the growing number of cancer survivors.

It is stories like Moseley’s that brought together approximately 750 GW students and community members in the Lerner Health and Wellness Center Saturday night for the third-annual Relay for Life event, which raised more than $61,000 for the American Cancer Society. Last year, the event raised $46,000.

At the 12-hour-long event sponsored by Program Board, students tie-dyed T-shirts, dressed up in costumes, played Monster pong, and danced the night away to the sounds of local student bands.

“It is a hallmark of GW that we are the number one university committed to public service in the United States,” University President Steven Knapp said during the opening ceremony. “Activities like this show the spirit of public service that made it possible for Michelle Obama to speak at Commencement in May.”

Freshman Hunter Thomas offered his perspective to participants on his experience as a caregiver for his father who suffered from bladder cancer for years.

“When my dad stopped working and the hospital bills piled up, I learned to cherish the small things in life,” Thomas said. “My experiences with my dad have been affected by cancer, but they are not defined by it. My dad has survived cancer twice, but that is not his greatest accomplishment. His hope is the same as the hope filled within this room.”

More than 80 Greek-letter groups, sports teams and student groups claimed “camp sites” – or team spaces on the third floor of the Health and Wellness Center – and walked the track in the building to raise money for the event.

GW’s women’s rugby team raised the most money, with approximately $6,000 collected before the event. They planned to continue fundraising at the event by selling coffee throughout the night.

“The girls on the rugby team are all very dedicated to this cause,” said team captain Adrienne Watkins. “We all know someone who has been affected by breast cancer, so we’re really motivated to get the word out there and raise money to fight this disease.”

The walkathon kicked off with a survivor’s lap, where Moseley and the women of GoPink!DC – a team of local breast cancer survivors and their supporters – walked and chanted to the rhythm of drums. Caregivers joined the survivors for the second lap of the evening, followed by a third lap in which all of the 80 participating teams walked together.

While one team member needed to be walking at all times, other team members socialized. A group of students started a dance-off in the middle of the gym, which quickly turned into a major dance party.

But for most students, the night was as much about raising money as it was about honoring those who have battled cancer.

During the Luminaria Ceremony – where participants light candles in bags in honor of those who survived or lost their battle to cancer – participants partook in a moment of silence.

“Fighting cancer has always been very important to me,” said freshman Ariel Kersky, who lost her grandmother and uncle to cancer. “Relay For Life is a celebration of the lives lost, the lives saved and the money raised for cancer.”

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