Relay For Life makes difference in fight against cancer

Relay for Life main

SUMMARY: JMU hosted its annual Relay For Life in April to raise money for the American Cancer Society.

By Grace Mathias ('21), editorial assistant

For nearly two decades, James Madison University has hosted Relay For Life. This year’s event was held Friday, April 9, from 6:30 to 11 p.m. in a hybrid format to adhere to COVID-19 restrictions.

Relay For Life is a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society benefiting research, services and accommodations for individuals and families going through cancer treatments. 

Other than the U.S. government, ACS is the top funder of cancer research in the world. Relay For Life honors cancer survivors and those who lost their lives to cancer, as well as their caregivers.  

“Relay For Life is an event that really brings together the entire student body,” said Whitney Minnick (’11M), senior development manager for the American Cancer Society. “Nearly everyone knows someone [who] has been affected by cancer in some way, so it’s an event that everyone can relate to. I know that many friendships have been made due to the bonds that form through Relay For Life.”

Relay for Life team

JMU is the second-largest collegiate Relay For Life chapter in the U.S. and the biggest fundraising event for a philanthropic cause on campus, according to Minnick.

ACS donations help fund cancer research and patient care programs that are sorely needed because of COVID-19. These programs include a hotline for patients, rides to and from treatments, and lodging necessitated by faraway treatments. 

In a normal year, Relay For Life consists of an opening ceremony, the Luminaria Ceremony, games, performances, competitions and a closing ceremony. Throughout the event, participants walk laps around Hillside Field to honor lives lost to cancer. JMU students, faculty, staff and community members can band together to form teams.

During the Luminaria Ceremony different relationships are announced and if the relationship applies to an individual, that person lights a luminaria and starts a lap. A luminaria is a decorated paper bag with a candle inside to honor those who have beaten cancer and remember those who lost their lives to cancer. The ceremony illustrates how cancer can impact everyone.

Because of COVID-19 protocols, this year’s Luminaria Ceremony was held in-person, while all other events were held virtually.

Relay for Life bag

A total of 1,303 people on 86 teams participated in the 2021 Relay For Life. The event raised $164,660.79, surpassing last year’s total.

Junior accounting major Hayley Kumpf, executive board member of JMU Relay For Life, participates in the event to honor her parents and her aunt. She said getting involved is a great way to give back and make a direct impact on people’s lives. 

“It builds a community because you never really know what someone is going through,” she said. “Through coming together as a community and fundraising, we can help make a change. We are a community, and together we can make a difference.”  

The 2021 Relay For Life was a successful event, and the JMU community anticipates continued participation for years to come. 



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Published: Friday, March 26, 2021

Last Updated: Tuesday, January 3, 2023

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