Judging by the fundraising numbers to date, this year’s Relay For Life is coming back once again to Merrimack College’s campus in a big way.
With just over a week until the walk-a-thon steps off, the Merrimack community has already raised $26,772.35 for the American Cancer Society, blowing past last year’s $25,000 total.
It’s no wonder why the community is so enthusiastic about this year’s edition scheduled for Saturday, April 22, from noon to 6 p.m. at Lawler Rink. For the first time in two years, the event will have no COVID-19 restrictions.
“During last year’s event, the American Cancer Society had limits on the number of people we could have in an indoor space,” said Kiley Dallas ’23, who worked as a Relay For Life event coordinator for the past two years. “So we weren’t allowed to get an indoor space and had it in the commuter parking lot.”
This year will be even more meaningful for the community as it will honor Kevin Salemme ’95, Merrimack’s former director of media and instructional services who passed away from cancer this past October. Nicole Hersey ’23, another event coordinator, worked in Salemme’s office as one of his photographers during her sophomore and junior years.
“Even when he was battling cancer he kept a positive attitude throughout it all,” she said. “About a week before he passed, I remember he was asking how everyone who worked in the studio was, he never once put himself before others, even on his last days. Kevin loved the Merrimack community and I believe this is a great way to show our love for him.”
Each year, the American Cancer Society helps sponsor more than 5,000 Relay For Life events around the world. Participants are sponsored by friends and family to walk as many laps around a track as they can. Some events go overnight and well into the next morning.
“Some of my earliest memories were going to Relay events in my town,” recalled event coordinator Kristen Tracy ’23. “I would always go with my dad and my sister because my dad’s mom passed away from cancer years before I was born. Unfortunately, they stopped doing them in my town. When I got to Merrimack and saw they did them, I figured, ‘Why don’t I try (joining the committee)?’”
The coordinating group has been working hard to bring Merrimack’s Relay For Life back to its pre-pandemic prestige.
“We’re trying to do a lot more,” said Emilee Aswad ’23.
Despite initial challenges, the students’ hard work continues to pay off. There are currently 27 teams and a total of 267 participants registered for this year’s walk. There is still time to join the event or make a donation by visiting www.relayforlife.org/merrimack.
“I think (Relay for Life) exemplifies Merrimack’s mission because we are a huge service-based community school,” Aswad added. “It also brings clubs, organizations, and sports teams together and gets them to bond in a different way other than just going to practice and their normal meetings.”