Friday, May 17, 2024

MTSU holds Relay for Life event in the Campus Rec Center


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Story and Photos by Noah McLane

The American Cancer Society and Middle Tennessee State University held a Relay for Life event at the Campus Rec Center on Friday where 21 organizations from three schools raised over $12,000 for cancer research.

For over 35 years, Relay for Life has encouraged communities to come together to honor loved ones and to take action by fundraising and challenging others to join fundraising efforts for cancer.

Participants walked laps around the rec center basketball courts visiting tables and playing games made by student organizations. This year’s theme was “Rock the Cure.”

Attendees of the Relay for Life event gathered in the Rec Center gymnasium. Many on-campus organizations participated. (Photo by Noah McLane)

Christyn Norwood, a senior at MTSU majoring in integrated studies with a minor in social work, is the president of Relay for Life on campus and has been working with the organization since she was 13. 

“We have a lot of connections, in my family, with people who have actually had cancer, and have taken care of cancer patients,” she said. 

Norwood’s aunt is currently battling cancer. 

Her favorite part of the event is the luminaria ceremony, an event at the end of the night where individuals line the track with white memorial, honor or survivor bags with glow sticks thoughtfully placed inside. 

The bags are decorated with names of people who are currently battling cancer and those who passed due to cancer in the last year. 

Norwood said that after the track is lined, “the lights go out, we take a minute just to recognize all of the ones that lost their battle with cancer. If you’ve been in that position, to lose a family member to cancer, you know how heartwarming it is for everyone to just stop and recognize those that weren’t able to beat the cancer.” 

The event was about much more than remembering those that cancer has taken too early, Norwood said.

The smiling faces and the echoing laughter encouraged a celebration of life in spite of the carnage of cancer.

At the beginning of the event, medals were awarded to cancer survivors by student organizers who then led the way around the first lap followed by caregivers and anyone currently battling cancer.

Diana Rust is a MTSU professor of University Studies, a faculty advisor for Relay for Life and a cancer survivor. She has been working with the organization since completing her first relay in 2006 in memory of her niece who had Leukemia. 

The Relay for Life event drew crowds from all over the state. (Photo by Noah McLane)

“I have been able to work with so many dedicated students, in particular the officers and the students who are helping with Relay as part of their HLTH 3000 service-learning experience. It is wonderful as a faculty member to sit back the night of Relay and see students running the event,” Rust said.

This year, 21 teams signed up to compete in events like fundraising, dodgeball, tug of war and many more. 

Gamma Beta Phi dominated the dodgeball tournament and easily beat SGA in the final. 

Zeta Tau Alpha won best decorated table. 

Grayson Garrette, a former MTSU student finishing his radiation therapy degree at Chattanooga State had participated with Relay for Life while he was living in Murfreesboro and wanted to continue that relationship even after moving over 150 miles away. 

There was one problem that he had to overcome: convincing his professors and peers to take time out of their week to travel to Murfreesboro. 

Grayson went to his professors with a simple pitch, “This is a really cool event, and what we’re learning is cancer treatment. What if we go?”

His professors immediately said yes. 

“We encourage our students to do service-learning projects, and so we thought this would be a great way to do that.” said one of his professors, Dr. Lisa Legg.

11 students and two professors from Chattanooga State made the trek to Murfreesboro for the event. 

The Luminara event was the highlight of Relay for Life. (Photo by Noah McLane)

The Rec Center was transformed into a special place where kindness and compassion were palpable. 

The MTSU students who planned and took part in the event were able to bring something truly special out of hundreds of people: community. Everyone there seemed to know it, too. 

“Everybody is so busy with their lives, it’s nice to see some community and coming together,” said Hajeh Silivani, a nursing student who had lost a family member to cancer and was attending her first Relay for Life. 

She said it was nice to see that people care and can come together behind a cause.

The total amount raised Friday night was $12,773.

Noah McLane is the environmental reporter for MTSU Sidelines.

To contact News Editor Kailee Shores and Assistant News Editor Alyssa Williams, email

For more news, visit, or follow us on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines or on Twitter and Instagram at @mtsusidelines.

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