Fifteen boys — bodies painted orange with a single maroon letter on each of their chests — gathered in support of their friend, Patrick Trail, Friday evening at Relay for Life.
Standing next to each other, the boys spelled out “VT For Mama Trail,” ending with “I love mom” written on Trail’s chest.
When Trail came to Relay this year, he did not expect to be relaying for his recently diagnosed mother. With a big surgery coming up in the following three weeks, Trail asked his friends to come out to show his mother their love and support. The group took a picture to later send to Trail’s mother as a surprise.
“For her, it’s great encouragement,” said Trail, a senior geography major.
More than 6,000 other participants also shared in remembrance and support for those battling cancer. Tents surrounded the Drillfield track, filled with community members walking and fundraising for the cause everyone came out to support — to find a cure for cancer.
Students from several organizations greeted people, encouraging them to participate in activities or buy goods as a donation towards Relay.
Alpha Chi Sigma, a chemistry fraternity, invited participants to flash-freeze flowers with liquid nitrogen, and shatter them while chanting “freeze cancer.”
Others donated money for the opportunity to pie a cadet or athlete. Kappa Delta sorority provided corn holes near the stage for anyone to play. The smell of baked goods lingered in the air from all the organizations selling treats out of their teams’ tents.
Later in the evening, the band 4shore performed. Its contagious energy had everyone dancing and singing songs such as “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele and “Turn up the Music” by Chris Brown.
Despite the chants of students and laughter among friends, the purpose of Relay was not forgotten.
“Cancer has affected my family, especially my grandma,” said Kyle Renfro, a sophomore accounting major. “It’s important to help fight because every little bit counts.”
Several students relayed for family, but others were also present for their friends.
“A really close friend of mine is fighting cancer,” said Anani Mohamed, freshman university studies major. “(Relay) shows unity, care, and love, which in today’s age means a lot.”
Throughout the night, participants reflected on those who had passed or were struggling with cancer, whether through the luminaria bags placed along the track or by watching the survivors walk the first lap during the opening ceremony.
Each bag was decorated with the words “in memory” or “in honor,” dedicated either to an individual who had passed from cancer or had battled it at some time.
During the remembrance ceremony, participants walked a silent lap to reflect on the illuminated bags and stories behind them.
“(Relay) represents Ut Prosim,” said Micah Bush, a senior management major. “The whole community meets up for an entire night.”
Freshman history major Kirsten Melone agreed representing the motto is important.
“As Hokies, we need to live for our motto,” Melone said.