Colleges for Cancer at PennWest Clarion will host the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life from 5 to 10 p.m. March 31 at the Student Rec Center. This year’s event is the 20th anniversary of the Clarion campus holding Relay for Life.


Lauren Vermeulin, president of Colleges for Cancer, invites fellow students, faculty and staff from Clarion and Venango campuses to join a team, form a team, or support the fundraising efforts. This year’s theme is Disney. Teams can choose Disney characters –so far, “Tangled,” “Cars” and “101 Dalmatians” have been chosen – to dress up as.


“We are looking for people to join existing teams or to create their own,” Vermeulin said. “It costs $10 to register, but that fee goes toward our campus goal.”


Relay for Life raises money for cancer research and to assist patients who need help accessing housing during treatment or transportation to treatment. Since the first Relay for Life event in 2003, Clarion has raised more than $473,200.


According to Nikki Carey, senior community development manager for American Cancer Society, the money raised by students at Clarion equates to:

·      9,436 nights at the Hope Lodge near Cleveland Clinic, where cancer patients and their caregivers can stay at no charge when they travel far from home for treatment;

·      18,929 free Road to Recovery rides for patients who need transportation to and from treatment; or

·      Three or more research projects by scientists who create better cancer treatments and preventive measures, such as the HPV vaccine.


“The work the students have done over the last 20 years is truly amazing and should be celebrated,” Carey said.


In the two years prior to COVID, Clarion had the second highest fundraising total among Pennsylvania colleges – nearly $47,000 – with only Penn State raising more. The 2022 post-COVID total was $15,964. This year’s goal is $15,000.


Historically, Relay for Life has been a 24-hour event. Various time spans have been tried, and Carey said a 12-hour event works particularly well for the college community. This year’s Relay will be five hours.


“The simple reason for the shortened length of the event is because of (lower) student involvement and trying to rebuild the event since COVID placed restrictions on gatherings,” Carey said. “The committees change every year, so there are no current students who were here prior to COVID to know exactly what the event was, how it looked and was run, or how fun it really was.”


Although this year’s event is shorter in duration, the traditional ceremonies – Opening, Survivor, Luminaria and FightBack – will continue. The public is welcome to attend those events.


“Activities on the day of the event vary according to what the planning committee and team captains want to offer. In the past, Relay has included games, raffles, bubble soccer, Relay Jail and hair donations. In our best year, we had almost 20 hair donations, which was amazing,” Carey said. “We do have a DJ for entertainment, plus some other crowd favorite events this year.”


In addition to money raised directly through Relay for Life, ACS’s spring Daffodil Days fundraiser goes toward the total. Results are evident.


“There has been a 30 percent decline in cancer deaths in the last 20 years,” Carey said. “Over 3 million people are alive today because of these efforts.”


To register or donate, click here.