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by Natalie Claire Winson

Lana Lana, an HPU nursing student and Joanna’s sister-in-law, told Joanna’s story to a hushed crowd during the Luminaria Ceremony that opened HPU’s second annual Relay For Life, March 31- April 1. The fundraiser was set to go ahead rain or shine, and despite the constant downpours, closed streets, and three setup changes, go ahead it did. The opportunity to raise money for cancer research and inspire others meant more to the 100 people who braved the elements to spend the night at an indoor track setup in Windward Community College’s Hale Akoakoa building, where the evening’s activities were held inside classrooms instead of tents.

“ This is a celebration of life: for those we’ve lost, and for those who continue to fight,” said student Jennifer Conception, this year’s Luminaria chairperson. For a donation of $5, each participant received a bag to decorate and a glow stick to place inside it. As the ceremony continued, each person broke the glow stick in honor of a loved one: mother, father, siblings, friends. A silent lap around the track followed, and one by one, each bag was placed along the makeshift track, “to light the way for victims of cancer,” Conception added.

Team fees and donations had been raised over the preceding weeks, and once all of the money was collected, a myriad of activities awaited the participants. To begin, the U.S. Marine Corps Honor Guard, led by Celtic Pipes of Hawai‘i, performed a Survivor’s Lap. A communal campground was designed in the hallways along the track early in the day, and food, lanterns, and team tents were erected and decorated with signs proudly announcing club ownership. Live local music, a scavenger hunt, karaoke, and early-morning movies were among the entertainment.

Two specialty rooms had been setup for most of the evening. A keiki playroom kept children and adults entertained with balloon making, face painting, and beadwork. A Wellness Center included affordable massages, displays from the American Cancer Society, and volunteers--students and Castle Medical Center staff--to educate passersby of the risks of smoking and benefits of screening for early signs of cancer. Each Relay For Life around the nation has a special Wall Of Hope banner for the participants to sign. In September, the HPU banner will travel to Washington where it will be on display for the nation to witness our dedication to the cause of cancer research.

When everything seems to be going as planned, it can only mean trouble. The shrill sound of the fire alarm before sunrise was a rude awakening for the few people who did manage to get some sleep. The sprinkler system kicked in, the building was evacuated, and relay participants had no choice but to watch helplessly as a fire truck pulled up, sirens wailing.

Despite the early morning sirens and the rain, the event was a huge success, raising a total of $6,253 in donations. The first-place individual fundraiser was Rebecca McElwain, who raised $1000. The top team fundraiser was HPU’s Pre-Med Society team--Saving While Attacking Tumors (SWAT)--which collected $1,675 in donations.

As the sun had began to rise, just enough to turn the sky a pale shade of blue, the crowd huddled together in the parking lot. Despite the 12-hour night with no sleep, there were no complaints. Instead, friends huddled, danced for entertainment, and gave massages. It was a great night, “and it proves,” one HPU student said, “that you really do get out of life what you put in.”



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