Since its introduction in 2007, Georgetown’s Relay for Life fundraiser has become a Hilltop fixture, uniting thousands of Georgetown students on an April night to raise awareness and funds for the fight against cancer. The ceremony is the product of months of work and planning and, for many students, proves to be a powerful and emotional night.
Since its peak fundraising in 2010, however, Georgetown’s Relay for Life has seen a continuous drop in fundraising from year to year. Although Relay for Life is about much more than fundraising, the lagging financial support from the campus is cause for concern.
The dip in fundraising is difficult to explain. This year, the School of Foreign Service’s annual Diplomatic Ball may have played a role in reducing turnout, but it seems that the event’s challenges have deeper roots. Even with roughly 2,000 students turning out for this month’s event, Relay did not produce the fundraising results of years past. Relay’s organizers have asserted that the event is about more than the numbers, and with this in mind, perhaps student participants should remember the roots of Relay for Life.
In its fundamental and intended form, a Relay event involves teams that must have a member walking or running on the track at all times throughout the night. This activity symbolizes the endless fight against cancer or that cancer “never sleeps.” But the event has witnessed a shift away from the actual relay and more toward other attractions. While inflatables, food-eating contests and games keep attendants occupied and bring in a larger audience, they run the risk of distracting students from the reasons they attend Relay, transforming the event into more of a carnival that invites people to stop by for the revelry than an all-night act of dedication.
In re-evaluating the challenges for the coming year, Relay might consider a renewed emphasis, or even enforcement, of the policy of always maintaining someone on the track. While this might reduce numbers, it would emphasize the somberness of the occasion and perhaps re-energize fundraising.
In its eight years on the Hilltop, Relay for Life has raised over $2 million for the American Cancer Society. Relay organizers make a tremendous sacrifice in time and effort for this important cause, and it’s troubling that fundraising has waned while the cause endures.