Sara McDonough (NHS ’12), a member of Georgetown’s Relay for Life organizing committee, spent 13 hours on Sunday with other committee members decorating Gaston Hall and setting up for the Relay for Life’s 2009 kickoff event. After McDonough and her colleagues finished their work for Sunday evening, decorations of purple and white covered Gaston from ceiling to floor, metallic purple stars sparkled from the ceiling and blow-up statues stood on the stage in honor of the “Night of the Oscars” theme. As the emcees for the evening took the stage, the students’ excitement for the upcoming event was palpable as cheers erupted from the crowded hall.

Relay for Life, which began at Georgetown in 2007, is a team fundraiser where student groups comprised of eight to fifteen people raise money for the American Cancer Society. Elizabeth Tobia (MSB ’09) and Mike Tyler (SFS ’09), co-chairs from last year’s Relay for Life, reiterated the success of last year’s relay and Georgetown’s historic achievements at the kickoff event. According to an ACS press release, in 2007, Georgetown raised more than $277,000, which far exceeded its $50,000 goal and was the largest amount raised in Relay for Life history by a college in its first year of participation. Last year, Georgetown succeeded in raising $380,000, which made it the most successful college nationwide in Relay for Life history. This year, the event will take place on April 17.

During the kickoff event, Eric Nellis (COL ’09) spoke about his experience, sharing his mother’s fight against cancer and the support that the fundraiser offers.

“The harsh reality of cancer is that it can happen to anyone – moms, dads, aunts, uncles, anyone,” he said. “I’m really thankful for Relay for Life because it has provided an outlet for me and a support system at school that makes it easier to handle.”

Rachael Kenney (MSB ’11), the marketing chair of the event, and Amanda Granozio (COL ’09), the recruitment chair, urged participants to raise money despite the recent economic downturn. The goal, she said, is to become the first college to raise over half a million dollars.

After performances by the Georgetown Phantoms, the Georgetown Chimes and the Capitol G’s, emcees Ruben Khan (COL ’09) and Thomas Wiederhold (COL ’09) gave out Hope Awards – including the Lifetime Achievement Award, which went to last year’s co-chairs Tobia and Tyler, the Hope Award, which went to Nellis, the Fight Back Award, which went to Granozio and Kenney and the Unsung Hero Award, which went to the 2009 co-chairs, David Hammerman (MSB ’11), a HOYA staff writer, and Jennifer Donley (COL ’10).

cDonough cited the camaraderie that develops among the committee members as another draw of working with the event.

“I love being involved because of the community feeling of the relay committee and because you can definitely see your work pay off,” she said.

Hammerman said that he and Donnelly have been planning the 2009 relay since last summer.

“Everything we do at our event is much bigger than most schools do – Virginia Tech and the University of Georgia are the only two schools that do an event the size of ours,” he said. “I think that the attitude that people take towards our relay helps make it such a great event. Instead of an event in spring, it becomes a Georgetown event in the spring,” he said.

Hammerman said the “relayers” play the most integral role in the event’s success.

“They raised the money, they are willing to give up a Friday night for something bigger than themselves,” he said. “It’s something that you don’t see at a lot of other college campuses and makes Georgetown’s event really great.”

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