By Rachel Vinciguerra
Tomorrow night students and faculty will come together for the Luminaria Ceremony during Colleges Against Cancer’s (CAC) Relay for Life event in memory and honor of those on campus who have been affected by cancer.
Sophomore Kate Hudson, public relations chair of CAC, said that Relay for Life is an organized community that walks a track overnight to fundraise for cancer research and awareness. The Luminaria Ceremony is one part of this larger event.
“The Luminaria Ceremony takes place after dark,” Hudson said. “We can remember people we have lost to cancer, honor people who have fought cancer in the past, and support those whose fight continues.”
Hudson said candles will be lit at 10 p.m. on Friday night inside personalized bags in honor of cancer victims. She said these bags serve as “glowing tributes” to those affected by cancer.
Hudson said there were 226 students participating as of Sunday, March 17, but the number continues to increase. She said she still remembers her experience at the ceremony last year and looks forward to this year’s event.
In the OWU Daily, those involved in the Luminaria Ceremony were encouraged to submit photographs of loved ones in a holiday setting, consistent with Relay for Life’s theme.
Junior Caroline Block-Williams said she decided to participate in the ceremony to honor her mother, who passed away last year after her battle with Crohn’s Disease and the diagnosis of cancer in her small intestine.
“Not a second goes by that I do not think of her and I cannot think of a better way to honor her,” Block-Williams said. “She would love to know that people are coming together to fight for something that is the cause of thousands of deaths per year.”
Block-Williams said her mother Lydia, the director of learning resources and faculty development coordinator for the Sagan Academic Resource Center, struggled with Crohn’s disease for 45 years.
In 2009 she was diagnosed with cancer in her small intestine and the many rounds of chemotherapy she endured were incredibly harsh on her body.
“Overall, the combination of cancer and Crohn’s disease led to her passing on June 22, 2011,” she said. “She never wanted anyone to know how sick she really was; however, it is imperative for events like Relay for Life to be arranged to understand how these diseases affect people’s daily lives.”
Sophomore Suzanne Pappenhagen said she lost her friend Liz to leukemia in high school.
Pappenhagen said Liz was diagnosed with bone cancer in eighth grade and, after going in and out of remission over the next few years, discovered she had developed leukemia from one of the medications she had taken. Pappenhagen said Liz remained strong throughout the process.
“No parent should lose a child the way Liz’s parents lost her,” she said. “But Liz never lost her smile and was and is an inspiration to many.”
Pappenhagen said Relay for Life and the Luminaria Ceremony touch anyone who has been impacted by cancer.
“Relay For Life is not only an important fundraiser to help end cancer, but a way for survivors and friends and family of people who have passed away to bond together to make an active difference,” she said.
Block-Williams said the camaraderie is an important part of the reason she decided to participate in the Luminaria Ceremony and Relay for Life this year.
“I am participating to receive support from my fellow peers as well as to provide support for those who have lost a close one or are experience a close one battling cancer,” she said.
Senior Amanda Boehme said she is participating in the Luminaria Ceremony in honor of her high school friend Ben, who passed away from cancer this year.
“He was a wonderful spirit who brought happiness to everyone’s lives through his creativity and his energetic attitude,” she said. “He impacted so many lives—including mine—so I wanted him to be acknowledged this year at Relay for Life.”
Boehme said it was hard watching as cancer took away some of the things that she and her friends had always associated with Ben, like his long hair.
“Ironically he donated to cancer patients a few years ago,” she said. “He sadly lost his hair going through chemotherapy.”
Boehme said she remembers Ben going to the doctor’s office every few weeks and enduring much physical pain and suffering throughout the process.
Despite this, she said, he kept a remarkably positive attitude throughout the process.
Boehme and Pappengagen said the Luminaria Ceremony in particular can remind participants they are not alone in what they have dealt with.
“It fuels our spirit to continue the fight against cancer,” Boehme said.
Block-Williams said she felt the ceremony was very significant on campus for that reason.
“I think this ceremony is extremely important to honor the people in our lives who we have lost due to these horrible diseases,” she said. “I can only hope that a cure for at least some types of cancer will be found during my lifetime.”
The Luminaria Ceremony will take place Friday, March 22, at 10 p.m. as a part of the Relay for Life event, which will be happening from 6 p.m. on March 22 to 11 a.m. on March 23.