By Kelsey Jochum, Content Editor
Students and community members alike gathered at the Sapp Fieldhouse April 8 for UNO’s Sixth Annual Relay for Life.
This year’s event was lead by Chair Jackie Whelan, a UNO student who has been involved with Relay for three years.
Whelan said planning this year’s Relay started in September.
“It’s a long process to get an event like this planned,” said Whelan, “But in the end it’s always worth it.”
The night’s events started at 6 p.m. with a Survivor Lap. All those cured of or living with cancer took the first lap around the track.
Every year, a survivor is chosen to tell the story about his or her battle with cancer. This year’s speaker was 6-year-old Hannah Raney. Her family discovered she had leukemia at only 1 year old. After many months of treatment at Omaha’s Children’s Hospital, Hannah has been cancer-free for more than four months.
Alhough her mother, Mandy Raney, did much of the talking, Hannah was able to tell the audience about a trip she took to meet Hannah Montana and a shopping spree at Toys-R-Us, all of which made possible by the Make-A-Wish Foundation. However, the decision for the Raneys to speak at Relay is perhaps the most interesting of all.
Three weeks before the event, Mandy Raney was working at the local Jones Bros. Cupcakes shop when she was approached by Whelan, who was looking for donations to be given to Relay.
Raney, who had never heard of Relay before, was intrigued and asked what the event was all about. After more discussion, Raney told Whelan that she had a six-year-old daughter who had battled cancer. Whelan asked if they would be interested in speaking at Relay and Raney gladly accepted.
“After Hannah’s treatment, we never talked much about cancer or what had happened,” Mandy Raney said. “We are so excited to be a part of this. We will definitely come again next year.”
After the Survivor Lap, the event continued with different activities throughout the night, including a volleyball tournament, eating contest and dance off.
At 9 p.m., the crowd gathered in the middle of the track again for the Luminaria Ceremony. The lights were dimmed and the group took a silent lap around the track to remember those fighting and those lost in the battle against cancer.
The event continued throughout the early morning and concluded at 6 a.m. with the closing ceremonies.
Relay is a life-changing event that gives communities across the globe a chance to “celebrate the lives of people who have battled cancer, remember loved ones lost and fight back against the disease,” according to the event’s website.
Relay began in 1985 and has since been the world’s largest movement to end cancer, according to the website. Each year, more than 3.5 million people in 5,000 communities in the United States, along with additional communities in 20 other countries, gather to take part in this global event and raise funds and awareness to save lives.