Cancer doesn't sleep, and neither will participants in this year's Relay for Life at the University of Arizona. Jason Saunders, a molecular and cellular biology junior at the university, is serving as chairman of the all-night event, in which teams traipse around the UA mall to raise money for the American Cancer Society. For more information on the April 20-21 event, visit the Web site or e-mail Saunders.

How did you become affiliated with Relay for Life?

Actually, it was kind of random. A friend of mine our sophomore year got an e-mail from a listserv that said they were looking for committee members to help put on the Relay. She told me that I should start to go to the meetings with her. I started doing that last year and just wound up in the chair position this year.

Tell me a little bit about the event.

It's the American Cancer Society's main event; it's their main fundraiser that they raise all their money through. It's an all-night walk. Their thing is: Cancer doesn't sleep, so why should we? Typically, the event ranges anywhere from 12 to 18 hours, up to 24--just so long as it goes from sunset to sunup. This is the--I want to say the fifth year at the UA, but I'm not sure. It's either fourth or fifth. Last year, we raised $63,000, and this year, our goal is $90,000. Our big thing right now is that we're trying to get teams to recruit. We try to get about 80 teams to participate, ranging in (number of) people from eight to 15. Each team is supposed to have a member walk the track at all hours of the night, so every team is always represented.

So do these teams generally represent different groups within the school?

Yep. It can be a group of friends. You know, we try to get everything. We typically try to get the clubs and the groups and stuff on campus, because clubs will have certain philanthropy (requirements). You have to do so many philanthropies to stay active in the club. And Greek Life has to do that, too. We try to get bigger groups of people, since they know they have to do something. We try to provide this as an option for them to do. But anybody can do it: friends, faculty teams. It's not just a student thing.

And they have to walk all night, huh?

Yeah. Actually, our event is April 20 and 21, from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. Opening ceremonies start at 5. We'll have probably four live bands play from about 6 to 9:30, and then activities and stuff all throughout the night. But, yeah, the whole night around the track.

Have you ever had just one person walk the entire night, or do they usually change up?

Originally, when Relay started back in 1985, the guy who started it did walk 24 hours straight by himself around a track to raise money. But since then, it's kind of developed into a team thing, because it would be tough to walk that long by yourself.

Will there be medical attention available, in case someone falls asleep on the track?

Actually, UAPD (the University of Arizona Police Department) has to come for security reasons, so they are there. And we are on campus, so we're not too far from UMC (University Medical Center) if anything were to happen. But I don't foresee that happening; nothing happened last year.

What have participants told you about this event? What have they gotten out of it?

They actually get a lot out of it. A lot of people don't really know what it is, and when they come, they say it's a really fun experience for them. I don't want to say community Relays for Life aren't exciting or anything, but the youth atmosphere on a college campus just brings a little something more to it. There are a couple hundred to 1,000 20-somethings out there, and basically, it's just like an all-night party kind of a thing with music and food and fun. ... But they also tell me that there are certain parts where it is serious; it's not all just fun and games. The point is to raise money and awareness for cancer, so one of the big things we do at sundown or right after is called our luminaria ceremony. Leading up to the event and the night of (the event), we sell little luminaria bags ... and people can decorate them in honor or memory of people who have passed away from cancer or are surviving cancer. We line them all around the outside of the track and light them. It's really touching.

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