After a year of planning, fundraising and endless enthusiasm, hard work has paid off for Hiram’s Relay for Life.
Despite being the smallest college to host a Relay for Life event in the East Central Division, Hiram earned the title Rookie of the Year, for having the top performing event out of colleges in Ohio and Pennsylvania hosting Relay for Life for the first time in 2011.
Co-chair Jamie Zychowski ’12, attended a conference with other division colleges on Sept. 24, where she received the news. She said the award was based not just on money raised (they had just over $28,000), but enthusiasm, effort, activities and participants as well.
Jamie and her sister and co-chair Rose ’13 set an initial goal of raising $25,000 for cancer research. After the actual event, which took place April 1-2, 2011, they had raised a good portion of that – $20,000. They reached their $25,000 goal in early summer, and the American Cancer Society, which hosts Relay for Life events throughout the world, then notified them they were in the running for Rookie of the Year in their division.
And when they heard that, there was no question: They would make every effort to win that honor.
“We didn’t know how people would respond since we had been raising money all year,” Jamie said. “So we were a little nervous to keep asking.”
But once the word got out that Hiram’s Relay for Life was in the running for winning Rookie of the Year, online chair Zach Fincham ’13, said everybody on campus wanted to see them win.
“We were getting e-mails left and right about where we were in the running,” he said, “and we didn’t know.”
Rose said having such a successful turnout in the event’s first year had a lot to do with building a community around it.
“We made it the thing to do on campus,” she said. “Nobody really knew what it was, so we were going off of a blank slate. We went into it being so enthusiastic, saying, ‘This is the cool thing to do, come do it.'”
They also didn’t try to mimic big schools who put on Relay for Life events with hundreds of teams – they made the event “Hiram’s Relay,” according to Jamie.
One way they did that was by involving faculty and staff. Jamie said Hiram was the only school at the conference she attended with high involvement beyond just students, and that faculty and staff deserve a lot of credit for the money raised.
Looking ahead, the Zychowski sisters and Fincham have set Saturday, May 5, 2012, as this year’s Relay for Life date. The theme will be Celebrations From Around the World, and teams will each choose a country to represent themselves. They are expanding the event from 18 to a full 24 hours, and are hoping for more involvement from the Hiram community – not just the College. They’re also looking to do more fundraising, recruit more teams and generate more overall interest, now that year one is behind them.
“We’re really excited,” Jamie said. “We’re going bigger and better this year.”
Hiram Relay for Life will have its first involvement meeting Monday, Oct. 3, at 6:30 p.m. on the second floor of the Kennedy Center. The Zychowskis are hoping to build a strong underclassmen base so that the event can go on after they graduate.
“We don’t want Relay to just be while we’re here,” Rose said, “we want it to be a lasting thing.”
Hiram community makes all-night quest for cancer research, April 4, 2011
Relay for Life Schedule of Events, March 31, 2011
Hiram Relay for Life Steps Off April 1, March 16, 2011