The Niagara News is the community newspaper of Niagara College located in Welland and Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada. It is created and produced by the students of the Niagara College Journalism program.
With Lady Gaga blasting from the sound system and laughter filling the auditorium in the Mackenzie building on Welland’s Niagara College campus, it was hard to believe everyone was there because of one of the most terrifying diseases in history.
On April 2, the Welland campus hosted the Relay For Life – Youth Program for the first time. This yearly event is held at elementary schools, high schools, colleges and universities across Canada.
Zoe Brown, co-chair of this year”s Relay For Life, gets her face painted. This activity was one of the evening”s many planned events. Photo by Joanne Labelle
Niagara College became the 19th post-secondary school to join the fight against cancer.
Relay For Life – Youth Program started in 2002 and now includes 110 communities and 102 school relays in Ontario. It’s a 12-hour non-competitive walking relay that takes place overnight and includes ceremonies such as the Survivor’s Lap, Luminaria, during which candles are lit and participants walk a lap in silence for those who weren’t so lucky in their battle with cancer, and the Fight Back Ceremony.
During this part of the relay, everyone involved takes a vow to quit smoking and/or promises to get screened.
The event is designed to ensure both the energy level and the mood stays high throughout the night. Themes like Michael Jackson and Lady Gaga laps encouraged both the volunteers and the approximately 40 participants to walk, dance and sing to their pop-
At any given time, you can could find a group of students playing basketball or board games in the middle of the track or sharing stories of survival or loss.
As pleased as the college was to host this event, it didn’t come without a few bumps along the way. Tyler Neal, 19, a General Arts and Science student at Niagara College and this year’s chairperson for the event, admits there were times where he wasn’t sure if the planning was going to fall into place.
“Up until two to three weeks ago, there were still things unsettled, like if there was going to be food, a location, equipment or people that could volunteer,” says Neal.
Dave Barnes, the northern and southern Ontario co-ordinator for the Youth Program, admits the organization’s fund-raising goal is ambitious.
“Our goal this year is $19.4 million for all [youth] relays in Ontario, and across Canada, $55 million by year’s end,” says Neal.
Every year, Barnes presents participating schools with an appreciation plaque that can be hung proudly in the school.
This year, the plaque will be hung in the residence on the Welland campus. Neal encourages students to stop by and take a look to see what making a difference looks like.
“You are going to be the reason we find a cure for cancer,”
Students who missed this year’s event at Niagara College can attend next year’s relay because the college plans to again host the event that has helped raise $19 billion for cancer research nationwide.
A few words written on one of the luminary memorial candles sums up the theme of the night: