Liberty students and Lynchburg locals help save lives at the Relay for Life event
Osborne Stadium was filled with people April 25 as Liberty students and members of the Lynchburg community gathered to participate in the Relay for Life event. The all-night relay honored cancer survivors and helped to raise more than $15,000 for cancer research.
Registration opened at 6 p.m., and a few participants set up tents, while others had lawn chairs and sleeping bags in preparation for the all-night event.
While they waited for the opening ceremony to begin, students passed the time by playing games in the grass. Rain fell for most of the day, but the sun finally came out two hours before the event and the grass became dry again. Students tossed footballs, threw Frisbees, played cornhole and even set up a small game of badminton.
The relay’s opening ceremony began shortly after 6:30 p.m. The U.S. Air Force ROTC posted the colors and the national anthem was sung as the crowd stood at rapt attention.
Afterward, Blair Wade, the American Cancer Society partner, welcomed the participants and thanked them for all their hard work raising money.
The relay officially began shortly after as cancer survivors wearing white sashes took the first lap around the track. The crowd clapped and cheered loudly. Some of the students even ran around the inside of the track beside the survivors and cheered for them.
“We’re here to celebrate our survivors,” Matt Shinsky, the survivor and caregiver chair on the Liberty Relay for Life committee, said. “You guys are what is awesome about what we’re doing, because you’re showing that cancer research is doing something. So we’re here to celebrate you.”
The second lap was taken by caregivers, who were wearing purple sashes. From then on, the rest of the participants were free to walk the track.
The relay consisted of 181 total participants divided into 28 teams. According to the rules on the Relay for Life website, one member from each team needed to be on the track at all times.
Participants walked in groups, talking and laughing. One group of young men threw a baseball back and forth as they walked. Those not on the track stayed in the middle field playing games and enjoying the opportunity to be outdoors.
A local band played live music for part of the evening, performing inspirational songs such as “My Own Little World” by Matthew West and “God’s Not Dead” by Newsboys. Even Liberty’s own D-Trex Dance Crew had a group at the relay, and they walked the track until they performed for participants at 8 p.m.
Josh Isaacson, a recent Liberty graduate, was one of the survivors present at the event. He was diagnosed with brain cancer at age 6 but successfully won the battle fifteen years ago.
“The American Cancer Society is one of the reasons that there are so many survivors who can walk and participate in this event,” Isaacson said.
The Luminaria Ceremony occurred shortly after dark. According to the Relay for Life website, Luminaria are paper bags personalized with names, pictures and drawings of friends and loved ones affected by cancer. Candles are lit inside of the bags as a silent tribute. The Luminaria bags at the Liberty relay had been arranged in the stands to spell out the word “hope.”
All non-registered persons were asked to leave the track at 11:30 p.m., but the registered teams continued to walk the track until 6 a.m.
For more information on upcoming events, visit the “Relay For Life of Liberty University” Facebook page or go to relayforlife.org to donate to the American Cancer Society.