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.”