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HANOVER, N.H. – Recently a group of student-athletes from the Dartmouth women’s hockey team took part in a Relay for Life event on campus.

Relay for Life events work hand-in-hand with the American Cancer society to raise money and awareness on cancer. The events started in 1985 when Dr. Gordy Klatt walked and ran for 24 hours around a track in Tacoma, Washington, ultimately raising $27,000 to help the American Cancer Society fight the nation’s biggest health concern – cancer. A year later, 340 supporters joined the overnight event. Since those first steps, the Relay For Life movement has grown into a worldwide phenomenon, raising more than $4 billion to fight cancer.

The Dartmouth/Hanover/Lebanon Relay for Life event took place from 3 p.m. to 6 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday, May 11-12. There were over 40 teams registered and just under 500 participants.

The annual event was moved outdoors this year and took place on campus. The 2013 event raised over $ 56,000 for cancer research.

Among the many volunteers and participants were the Big Green's Olivia Whitford and Lindsey Allen. After stellar freshman campaigns, Whitford and Allen have grown an affinity for the Upper Valley and chose to take a proactive approach by participating in the event. The experience was a positive one for the duo who recently wrote the following about their involvement.

“Relay for Life was overall an incredible experience, and a great one to share with our teammates.  For many of us it was our first time participating in the annual event and, arriving on Saturday afternoon, we were not sure what the next 16 hours would be like.  Throughout the night we met people of all ages from all around the Upper Valley and also recognized some familiar faces – DDS employees, sorority sisters, roommates, local high school kids, etc.  The size and diversity of this group, united for a common cause, was both inspiring and a reminder of cancer’s non-discriminating reach.

The atmosphere was upbeat and so much fun. We earned spirit bucks by participating in every event we could – water balloon tosses, hot dog eating contests, scavenger hunts, whale wrestling, and more.

Throughout the night we enjoyed performances from groups like the Dartmouth Aires, Chuck, Sheba, and others.  One of the more moving events of the night was the Luminary Ceremony.  We all gathered inside an auditorium filled with candlelit paper bags, each labeled with the name of someone who had been affected by cancer.  At the front of the room, some of the bags were arranged so that they spelled out the word ‘HOPE.’  We listened to a Dartmouth student read aloud two poems that she had written about her father passing and watched a slide show of pictures of loved ones that had been lost to this awful disease.  It was a truly touching ceremony.

 The entire relay is supposed to symbolize a cancer patient’s journey.  Nightfall is symbolic of the first diagnosis.  Throughout the night the different performances and activities promote a healthy lifestyle and show that even if you have cancer, you can still participate and live life to the fullest that you are able to.  The hardest part is when it is almost morning and the exhaustion is really setting in.  A few of us were taking a short break in our tent at around 4 o’clock when we heard the voices of our teammates, who had somehow been given access to a megaphone, echoing around the campsite.  We re-joined the group and were so proud to see our team encouraging and rallying the other relayers, who were worn-out from walking around the track all night long. That’s the kind of strong support system I’d imagine you would need to help you get through the fight or last until sunrise.   The sunshine was a welcome sight, representing a patient winning the fight and surviving the battle.

Relay for Life was an amazing event, and a tradition that the Dartmouth Women’s hockey team will definitely continue next year and beyond.   We are proud to be a part of a community that raised over $55, 000 to support research being done at cancer centers right here in the Upper Valley.  Next year we aim to beat our fundraising goals and raise even more money.”