(Photo provided by Nicholas Sarnelli)
Pictured above is a segment of the luminaria ceremony from last Friday’s Relay for Life Event in the Woodward Center
This past Friday, April 8, Westfield State held its third annual Relay for Life event in the Woodward Center. The event started at 6 p.m. with the opening ceremony and the survivors lap and dinner. There was an abundance of positive energy that filled the whole first floor of Woodward, creating an atmosphere that projected a celebration of life.
The first event of the night was the community showcase that included performances by the dance company and the dance team on campus, one community dance company, the acaOWLETTES, and the Night Owls. Loud and energetic music filled the air while people walked and occasionally ran around the track.
Along the track were booths to help pass the time. One could color in the kids’ corner, buy a snack at the bake sale, or become a lifetime member of the Relay community.
After a four-hour lull of walking, the luminaria bags were set up along the tracks and glow sticks were passed out. The luminaria ceremony started with a moving account of one woman’s lifelong struggle with cancer. One-by-one she then listed different reasons those in attendance might be involved with Relay (parent, sibling, grandparent, etc.) and invited each to break their glow stick once she read their connection with cancer.
The room was silent and dark except for the cracking and light of the glow sticks. It was an emotional moment that seemed to connect to everyone in the room in some way. All there for the same reason: to fight cancer and remember those who have suffered or are still suffering.
Once everyone’s glow stick was lit, everyone at the event took a silent lap around the track while some placed a glow stick in a vacant luminaria bag.
The room remained silent and dark while people embraced each other and quietly grieved for their loved ones.
The ceremony shifted into Zumba and yoga, which was followed by late-night pizza and snacks. It provided the perfect mood booster to continue on into the late hours of the night. The atmosphere calmed down and the amount of people diminished significantly by 1 a.m., yet there was no lack in support. The night continued on with events such as the Miss Relay and PJ lap, KanJam, Minute to Win It, and Kickboxing.
Many took to the available mats for a nap or a break, but there was always someone doing laps.
Relay for Life was a fun and emotionally-charged event. Though many were tired, no one seemed to mind.
People were nice and friendly the whole night through, making for a pleasant group of people to spend twelve hours with. The Relay for Life club raised over $42,000, which is incredible for Westfield’s size.