Third time’s a charm: Relay for Life returns after two years to national award


Abby Lincks

Relay for Life will take place Apr. 8 in the VHS football stadium.

Abby Lincks and Isabel Young

For students who had to suffer through ninth grade gym class runs, the athletic track conjures unwelcome memories. But this year, a familiar event will transform mile-time woes into a fight against cancer.

Returning for its 11th year, Relay for Life is back and more ready than ever to partner up with American Cancer Society (ACS) in the fight against cancer through treatment, education and support. After two years of the full, in-person event having to be canceled due to COVID-19, food, games, live music and most notably, survivor and luminaria ceremonies, will be held at Monroe Stadium Apr. 8, starting at 6 p.m. 

“[This event] is about coming together, having a great time, raising money and raising awareness in the fight against cancer,” head coordinator Kirsten Mulligan said. “It all benefits American Cancer Society.”

Vandegrift won an award as the top national high school for number of registrations as of Jan. 31, with over 168 people registered. Team Howard has raised $3,128 as of now, just one of 19 teams working hard for this event. To register, donate and dedicate a luminaria, participants should go to the high school website and click the Relay for Life website link

“I think a giant misconception right now is it’s just going to be another boring Vandegrift event,” Committee chair Maizie Heidger said. “But, I think that it’s going to be a fun live event because no one’s gotten to experience it in the last few years because of COVID-19.”

Heidger emphasizes the importance of registering for the event as soon as possible. She urges anyone who is able to sign up to do so, and to spread the word. Despite its name, the relay is not a race, and participants who choose to walk the track are welcomed.

“Every single Viper…you don’t have to be a staff member, it can be parents, it can be business owners, it can be community members, it can be little brothers and sisters, it can be grandparents, anybody is invited to register,” Mulligan said. “So anybody can, at all times, walk.”

Student groups are dedicating weekly meetings and long efforts to make Relay for Life the supportive, successful event it has worked so hard to be throughout the last eleven years. In that time, approximately $300,000 has been raised.

“I just love getting to make an impact and getting to help make the whole event come together,” Heidger said. “It’s been a great experience.”

If unable to attend, anyone can dedicate a luminaria for $5 to be lit, decorated, or put in honor of someone by an attendee during what Mulligan describes as one of the most powerful portions of the entire event, the Luminaria ceremony. 

“There’s probably, typically about 1,000 people on the field,” Mulligan said. “We give this little speech about honoring and remembering people who we’ve lost, somehow affected by cancer,”

After a long day of relays, the night closes out with a lap lit by luminarias in honor of those affected by cancer.

“[All day] we have a DJ, and there’s all these students dancing or whatever; but for that luminaria lap, it’s just silent,” Mulligan said. “It’s really, really, really a unifying, powerful tradition.