Student News

Education students raise thousands in Relay for Life

Four teams of students from the School of Education raised more than $6,000 to fight cancer in UNC-Chapel Hill’s annual Relay for Life April 3-4, 2009. Doctoral students Lara-Jeane Costa and Jane Robertson headed a team of graduate students and their families, called the Peabody All-Stars. Teaching Fellows Emily Carey and Caroline Ewald coordinated three teams of undergraduate students, sponsored by the Carolina Teaching Fellows. A total of 35 education students participated across the four teams.

Relay for Life is a worldwide initiative of the American Cancer Society to raise funds to fight cancer. The Relay is an overnight event, up to 24 hours in length. Communities participate across the country and around the world. Donors sponsor team members by making monetary contributions.

At UNC’s Relay, teams of people set up campsites in the Eddie Smith Field House and took turns walking or running around the track at Fetzer Track and Field. Each team was asked to have a representative on the track at all times during the event, which began at 6 p.m. Friday night and ended at 2 p.m. Saturday.

“The first lap of Relay for Life is dedicated to cancer survivors. Watching the survivors take a lap around the track and then seeing everyone join in walking with them really made me feel like we were working together,” said Ewald.

When team members were not walking, they could rest, watch performances and participate in games and other activities. Food was available throughout the event.

“Some teams sold food to raise money on site, everything from fried catfish to grilled cheese sandwiches,” noted Costa.

After sunset, hundreds of illuminated bags called luminaria were set up around the track. “This very moving luminary ceremony is a celebration in honor and memory of those affected by cancer,” said Robertson.

Costa first became involved in Relay for Life as an undergraduate student at UNC-Wilmington 10 years ago when she joined a student organization that participated every year.

“I have always been drawn to community service events, so it was a given that I would participate,” said Costa. “The energy and enthusiasm were amazing!”

She continued to participate throughout her undergraduate years at UNCW as well as when she became a teacher at Trask Middle School in Wilmington, N.C. Now she has brought her experience and commitment to the graduate student body of the School of Education, volunteering to head a team and recruiting others to join her.

“Cancer has touched everyone in one way or another,” commented Costa. “Personally, I remember when I was a little girl, my mom’s best friend was very sick. At the time I didn’t know what was wrong, but I later learned that she died of cancer. As well, my Aunt Debbie passed away a few years ago from cancer. This was very devastating to my family and me.”

What was the experience like for the education team members this year? “We got a few hours of shut-eye here and there but mostly we walked, ate, saw some fabulous performances and watched various activities like UNC Jeopardy,” said Costa. “There was always something happening for the entire 20 hours. Even though it was a long night and we got very sleepy at times, it was easy to walk all night, especially when we knew that it could save a life.”   

This year’s event was especially meaningful to Robertson, whose father is battling cancer. “We won’t find a cure in time to save my father,” she said. “But I believe that if we continue to raise funds for research through events like Relay for Life, this disease will be eradicated during my lifetime. If the funds we raise help save future lives, I feel as though I’ve done my small part.”

Teaching Fellow Krista Pool, who chaired the campus-wide event for UNC, echoed that hope. “My mother died of cancer at the young age of 40,” she recalled. “She instilled in me strength─a hope─that together we can make a difference. We cannot continue to lose more than seven million people every year to cancer. We can change the statistics. We have the power and we have the chance to save lives.”  

Donations are welcomed at any time. For more information visit UNC Relay for Life.