Jeremy Parker and Robin Pisor participate in Relay for Life at the East Field. People participated in this event to raise money for the American Cancer Society. Photo by Sal Ingram.
Organizations set up booths where they sold a variety of goods and services. All the money collected was donated to the American Cancer Society. Photo by Sal Ingram.

“Cancer never sleeps.”

This was the motto of the 2011 Relay for Life, a 24-hour cancer awareness event and fundraiser. The relay, which began at 10 a.m. Saturday morning, was the third time that a Relay for Life has been hosted at UC Santa Cruz.

Ever since the first Relay for Life in 1985, millions of people — cancer survivors, families and friends of the victimized, and others still — across the nation have been inspired to do the same, raising hundreds of millions of dollars each year for the American Cancer Society.

On Saturday, hundreds of people gathered to help the cause by either raising funds, running, walking or by motivating others who looped around the OPERS East Field track. Opening alongside the NCAA men’s tennis regional tournament and against clouds that threatened to turn for the worse — and later would — turnout for the relay was pleasantly higher than expected by some.

Rohan Prabhakar, a third-year student volunteer with the Santa Cruz chapter of the student organization Colleges Against Cancer, said he was pleased with the amount of people who had decided to join the cause.

“Things turned out really well, considering the weather,” Prabhakar said. “We had well over 300–450 registered participants before the start, and with the number of people that have passed through so far, I’d say we’re up at around 600 people.”

Many had personal reasons to be there. Mimi Stroud, a second-year with the Student Volunteer Center relay team, was motivated to participate after the death of her father when she was 12.

“I’ve always wanted to become involved,” Stroud said. “There is a history of cancer in my family, and, well, when my father died it had a tremendous impact on my life. I’m glad I’m out here today — I think it’s worth it.”

While the sun was overhead, participants and passersby gathered freely about the relay’s organization bazaar. There, the sweet scent of freshly baked cupcakes was met with the harsher hint of rubbing alcohol. Relay teams sold everything from henna tattoos to handcrafted bracelets. While sifting through the goods and services from one display table to the next, shoppers also enjoyed live performances from groups including Grupo Folklorico and the Indian Student Organization.

Flitting about from tents to organizers and back was fourth-year Colleges Against Cancer president Teji Kapadia, checking to make sure the relay went swimmingly.

“Last year we felt like teams weren’t interacting enough,” Kapadia said. “We put in a lot of time making sure to promote unity and interaction this year.”

Having already put in 14–18 hour days preparing the event the previous week, Kapadia said she was determined for this year’s Relay for Life to be nothing short of a success.

“Teji has been relentless in working on this event,” volunteer Prabhakar said. “We were worried when so many of the original founding members of [the UCSC chapter of Colleges Against Cancer] graduated, but she’s put countless hours into making this happen.”

And it shows.

In 2009, UCSC’s first Relay for Life raised roughly $10,000. Last year, about $26,000. While the total amount for this year won’t be announced until Friday, Teji projected this year’s relay at over $21,000.

The symbolic gesture made by the relayers to carry on for the entire 24 hours held true throughout the night. Even at 4 a.m., as the storm rains and cold winds punished the relayers — some without poncho or coat to speak of — they could still be found making their rounds about the track.