UWF Relay for Life sprints toward a brighter future

By Kenny Detwyler
Contributing Writer

relayUWF’s 2016 Relay for Life hit the ground running long before anyone stepped foot onto a track.

This year’s Relay is different from years past, as event organizers have taken Relay for Life into uncharted territory by becoming a registered student organization (RSO).

Becoming an RSO provides UWF Relay a seat on the Campus Collaboration Board, easier access to venues, access to SGA funding and a presence on campus that extends beyond the one-night-only Relay for Life event.

“Last year and the year before that, it was very hard to reserve things,” event co-lead Nicholas Barrios said. “Ten percent of what was fundraised went back into being able to pay for pizza, police officers, and for the property that we were going to be on. We’re not just some outside source anymore, we’re a part of the university.”

Becoming an RSO was only the first step in the rebuilding process that UWF Relay took on. The event was plagued with fundraising troubles, a decrease in sponsorship support, and a need to revamp the UWF Relay experience.

“In order to rebuild this Relay, we took it apart over the summer and looked at why we weren’t being successful,” event co-lead James Hebbel said.

The UWF Relay committee looked at all aspects of event. This year they focused on changing the closing ceremonies as a possible way to enhance the participant experience. Relays normally last 12 hours, from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. However, UWF Relay is scheduled to start at 7 a.m. and end at 2 a.m. instead.

“We realized that in the past, we never had a true closing ceremony,” Hebble said.

Hebble and the rest of the Relay staff noticed that students didn’t enjoy staying until 7 a.m. So, in order to ensure that participants stay at least until closing, the end time was moved up in order to keep the event more condensed.

“Going forward, if everyone stays until 2 a.m. and is still excited about Relay, maybe we can progressively change the time, and get back to a 12-hour relay,” Hebble said.

Also, the Relay staff is hoping for fairer weather than they experienced at last year’s event.

“Last year I was the logistics chair, and we made the decision, three days out, to come inside. It was hectic and crazy,” Barrios said. “It’s going to be a lot more exciting outside. We’ll actually be allowed to do the laps that are inside the American Cancer Society rule book.”

In addition to the changes in schedule, UWF’s Relay will also feature a new Snapchat filter, which will be available for participants sharing their experience on social media. Also, with the aid of SGA dollars, the Relay staff will be able to provide more of their own merchandising.

Even with all the new additions and changes to Relay, the committee has not lost sight of what this event means to the survivors and participants who look forward to Relay for Life each year.

“Everyone always associates cancer with old people, but on our campus our committee is comprised of 19 members. At one point we had seven committee members that had been affected by cancer,” Hebble said. “It really brings together the community that you go to school with. It’s one night that everyone can come together and have fun,” Hebble said.  “We’re all coming together to essentially end the fight against cancer.”

UWF’s Relay for Life 2016 event will be held on the UWF soccer fields on Friday, April 8. For more information on how you can donate to Relay for Life visit the website. To keep up with events leading up to Relay for Life, follow the Facebook Page.