Students support cancer research

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Students light up a luminaria at the Southern Miss Relay for Life event outside the Payne Center Thursday evening. A.J. Stewart/Printz
Students light up a luminaria at the Southern Miss Relay for Life event outside the Payne Center Thursday evening.
A.J. Stewart/Printz

The third annual USM Relay for Life took place Thursday, April 24 around the Payne Center Fitness Trail.

Over 30 student organizations participated in raising money and awareness for the American Cancer Society.

Kiffani Zackery, executive director, said many things were changed for this year’s event.

“We made the effort to keep the team captains more involved and informed, increased online registration and donations, shortened the hours of the event and moved the event location,” Zackery said. “We definitely saw an increase of participation this year and I believe people were a lot more excited about the event.”

The event started at 3 p.m. and lasted until 11 p.m. There was live music, a Zumba class, games, a prize drawing for Gulfport Music Fest tickets, a blow-up obstacle course and a luminaria ceremony.
The theme for this year’s event was “Around the World,” so there were different types of food and drinks depending on what country, continent or state an organization was.

Aundrea Borchardt, a junior elementary education major, participated with Pi Beta Phi sorority. Their country was Mexico.

“It was a lot of fun with Mexico as our country,” Borchardt said. “We painted our ‘Pie a Pi Phi’ board to match the theme, we sold walking tacos and a lot of our members dressed up to match. It’s just a fun way to get people even more excited and involved about the event.”

The luminaria ceremony ended the night. A performance of “Lean on Me” happened while people released their luminarias into the air.

Committee member Megan Mullis said this ceremony is her favorite part of Relay for Life.

“Relay (for Life) is a very special event to me because I have been affected by cancer because I know people who have fought against it,” Mullis said. “The luminaria service is my favorite because we are honoring those who lost their battle with cancer and encouraging those who are currently fighting it.”

By the end of the night, Southern Miss students raised $10,000 for the American Cancer Society.

“I’m so ecstatic about it,” Zackery said. “Seeing that number when the final total of the night was calculated and seeing how excited everyone was when I revealed the check made the long days and sleepless nights worth it.”

She said she is most proud of the students who came out and supported the event.

“There’s no mandate or requirement to participate in Relay for Life, so seeing all of the organizations and students come out completely of free will made me so happy,” Zackery said.

“Schools and communities take part in Relay for Life events every year, so it’s a humbling feeling knowing that Southern Miss plays a small yet impacting role in something bigger than ourselves.”

The top fundraising teams were Kappa Delta sorority in first place, Delta Sigma Theta sorority in second and Alpha Delta Pi sorority in third. The Vietnamese Student Association won the Spirit of Relay award.