Although fundraising for the American Cancer Society through this year’s Relay for Life again declined from its 2010 peak, participants at Friday’s event were more active than in years past.
This year, the event brought in a total of $113,681.78 for the ACS, compared to the nearly $150,000 that was raised last year, then the lowest total in the Georgetown program’s history. In 2010, the organization raised $400,000. The chapter did register an increase in on-site fundraising compared to last year, amassing $5,228.23.
Similar dips in fundraising results have been observed at other Relay for Life events throughout the country.
“Fundraising has been down or flat in a lot of places because of the weak economy, but we’re still really pleased that the participation is up,” ACS Director of Media Relations Vivienne Stearns-Elliott said. “That really speaks volumes because it means that more students and more community residents are interested in finding out more about the American Cancer Society. There are more ways to fight cancer than with your pocketbook.”
The 2013 incarnation of Relay for Life counted attendance at around 2,000 people, a dip from 2012. While 2014 attendance totals had not been calculated as of press time, around 1,500 participants had registered online prior to the April 11 event. Organizers said they believe, however, that the main event at the MultiSport Facility drew a more dedicated audience because of adjusted hours and a wider variety of activities.
“We really tried to focus throughout the year on changing the event, on making sure we were revitalizing the event, on making sure that we were focused on the mission,” Relay Marketing Director Liz Teitz (COL ’16) said. “It wasn’t something where we went into it and every single meeting we were saying that we want to raise [a certain] amount of money.”
The event’s coordinators aimed to revitalize Relay and increase participation by altering the timeline of the night. In previous years, the 12-hour event typically began at 7 p.m. on a Friday evening and continued until the early hours of Saturday morning. This year, Relay started at 3 p.m. on Friday afternoon and ended at 3 a.m.
“We definitely saw that most of the people did come to the event were staying there for a longer period of time than they usually do. We got a lot of people to come in the afternoon,” Relay for Life Co-Chair Dana Sievers (SFS ’14) said.
This year, nearly 50 participants stayed until the final lap, whereas last year less than half a dozen students remained. Coordinators noted that in the past students typically began to leave the event around midnight, rather than staying until the end.
“When we had our final lap last year, it was pretty much just the executive and the committee left, whereas this year there were a lot of participants still there, a lot of people really active and really energetic about it,” Teitz said. “We had a little more engaged participation.”
Stearns-Elliott said that although this increase in participation was not reflected in fundraising results, it was still beneficial because Relay’s goals include raising awareness about cancer prevention, not just raising money for the ACS.
“One of the important things that we do through Relay for Life is that we promote cancer education so that people spread the word to their families and friends to eat healthy, exercise, do those things that we know lower your cancer risks,” Stearns-Elliott said.
Relay teams took on a larger role in providing entertainment at Relay this year. Previously, the event’s coordinators relied on funding from What’s After Dark, a program that supported sober nightlife activities and was discontinued by the university last year.
“We had to make a couple of adjustments with the entertainment so we outsourced some of our entertainment options to teams to do fundraisers. Instead of hiring an artist to do henna, one of our teams at the event did henna as a fundraiser,” Sievers said.
Members of Sigma Phi Epsilon, for example, stayed at Relay throughout the night, selling merchandise as an on-site fundraiser. The Georgetown Running Club had members running on the track throughout the entirety of the event.
“It was really great because it wasn’t just one person running at every time, it was multiple people. It was a good chance to talk and bond and reflect a little bit,” Running Club member Eamon Johnston (SFS ’17) said.
Additionally, the layout of the event was opened up to allow room for casual activities such as games of Frisbee and soccer.
This increase in active participation among teams marked a milestone for Relay.
“We want to engage people in the fight against cancer on all different levels,” Stearns-Elliott said. “Certainly the fundraising is very important, as are the volunteer aspect and the education aspect, which we feel we really succeeded at this year. The money might come next year.”