On Jan. 31, the McGill Students’ Cancer Society (MSCS) invited students to run around McGill’s favourite finals room for 12 hours straight for their seventh annual Relay for Life. After months of promotion and organization, the night kicked off at 8:30 p.m. with a welcoming ceremony and the introduction of the event’s many teams. By reaching out to other universities around Montreal, club coordinators brought together students from Concordia, UQÀM, McGill, and other schools in the area. Many of these students rallied behind creative movie-based names including “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Life” and “Eat, Pray, Run!” Working closely with the three Canadian Cancer Society representatives supporting the university’s chapter, MSCS sought to raise awareness for contemporary cancer research, pursuing an ultimate goal of $30,000.
The overwhelming support from both the executive team and participants spoke volumes to the committed members of the Montreal community dedicated to fighting cancer. Spectators set up picnic blankets, sleeping bags, and lawn chairs to last through the night. Food was provided by a myriad of local sponsors such as McGill’s own Student Housing and Hospitality Services and Deville Dinerbar. Allegra Mendelson, U3 Arts and MSCS president, showed enthusiasm about the growing support of external sponsorships over the years.
“It’s unparalleled, we have over fifty different sponsors,” Mendelson said. “We were able to have all food and prizes provided whereas in the past, we’d have to negotiate deals or buy food ourselves.”
As the Ontario division’s youth advocate in her years leading up to university, Mendelson helped found her high school’s cancer education group. In the past year, she has helped bring in larger sponsors to fund expenses such as the event’s food and prizes. Mendelson expressed great pride in the continual efforts of her executive team’s publicity efforts which have led to a yearly increase of the annual donation sum.
“Last year saw a $10,000 increase [of participant contributions] from the previous year, and this year we’ve been on track to have a $5,000 increase,” Mendelson said.
At 11:00 p.m., participants still showed incredible energy and devotion to the cause, spreading themselves across the track floor while eagerly awaiting to learn which team had raised the most funds and would therefore get to choose the movie that would be shown at 3 a.m. Sophia Stegeman, U2 Science and director of entertainment for MSCS, explained why they incorporated team-based activities throughout the event.
“It’s not a competition between the teams, it’s all about rewarding the participants,” Stegeman said.
Stegeman described the effort that went into meticulously planning the night’s events such as heartfelt a cappella performances, a fierce lip sync battle, and the highly anticipated dodgeball tournament.
“As an [executive], we’re constantly on our feet,” Stegeman said. “I’ve practically run the entire night [in previous years]”.
Having surpassed their donation goal with $31,609.74 raised, Relay for Life concluded with a celebratory round of Timbits for the hungry crowd. According to the Canadian Cancer Society’s website, half of this funding will go towards research grants. With clinical trials underway using new breakthroughs such as CRISPR, which can be used to manipulate a patient’s immune system to destroy previously undetectable cancer, the funds raised support advances in cancer treatment. The remaining half of the funding goes to supporting programs and resources like Relay for Life across the nation. In the spirit of Terry Fox, many participants kept running long into the night in solidarity with those currently affected. With such support, MSCS successfully proved that even one person’s willpower is enough to encourage students, faculty, and staff to look forward to a cancer-free future.