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A virtual reality: Shepherd University Relay for Life to raise donations through online fundraisers

By Staff | Apr 24, 2020

Community members can purchase a luminaria through this evening, which will be lit and announced in a virtual ceremony for Shepherd University Relay for Life. Courtesy photo

SHEPHERDSTOWN — Shepherd University’s Relay for Life, in a normal year, draws hundreds of participants to walk to raise money for cancer research. But the COVID-19 pandemic has made this year not-so-normal, so organizers of the annual event have been forced to change the way this year’s fundraiser is held.

Throughout this month, the 2020 Relay for Life is being held virtually.

“Relay is something that has brought a source of stability for us as we come to a common purpose,” said Relay for Life campus advisor Heather Brumbaugh. “This is regardless of the strange happenings in the world.”

As in any Relay, teams are formed to compete in raising funds and increasing awareness for the fight against cancer. Twenty-two teams are registered for the Shepherd Relay, representing many university groups and organizations. Each team has been diligently working to raise funds in unconventional ways, including through online challenges that can be accessed via the Shepherd Relay for Life Facebook page.

This weekend, Brumbaugh shared, is a “Raise $48 in 48” event, where all 144 team members will try to raise $48 between Saturday and Sunday, as they push to raise the Relay’s $25,000 overall goal.

Currently, Relay participants have raised nearly $12,000; however, with financial constraints on individuals and families during the pandemic, Brumbaugh said the Shepherd teams hope to raise a minimum of $15,000 by the end of April.

One way individuals can contribute is by purchasing a luminaria in memory or honor of a loved one through this evening.

“We will be hosting a virtual luminaria ceremony this year to celebrate those who are currently fighting or already fought the battle to cancer,” said the event website. To purchase a luminaria, email Sydney McCahren at smmccah01@rams.shepherd.edu, or visit Shepherd’s website and click on the luminaria link where the option is available to choose Shepherd’s Relay event. The virtual ceremony will be a video of the luminarias with the names of the people they are in memory or honor of announced.

Many of the students and faculty members participating in Shepherd’s Relay have chosen to do so, because they have been personally impacted by cancer. For Brumbaugh, she participates in Relay for Life because of her grandmother, as well as a dog she lost to cancer.

“I’ve been impacted by being around many friends and caregivers who have dealt with cancer as well,” Brumbaugh said. “Shepherd University and Shepherdstown are a tightknit group. It is a passion of our students and the student team this year has been a driving force behind making this a success.”

Shepherd Relay for Life is also raising money to reach its goal, by participating in the American Cancer Society’s Gamers vs. Cancer tournament, pitting it against 63 other colleges in a bracket-style contest to determine which school can raise the most support each week and throughout the duration of the six-week challenge, which will end on May 13. Each university is participating in the fundraiser, by playing video games and watching games being played. More information can be found at gamersvscancer.org/cst and www.relayforlife.org.

Donations to specific teams or members, or to the Shepherd Relay as a whole, can be made at acsevents.org.