By Hollie Grace James
As their final year unfolded during the pandemic, seniors at Nepean High School decided to draw the line at postponing their beloved annual fundraiser, Relay for Life. Instead, they chose moving the format online with a virtual event that was held on May 20.
The festival-like fundraiser, held annually across Canada, typically lasts anywhere from six to 12 hours. Team members take turns walking around a track, or designated path, with one team member active at all times — symbolizing the ongoing fight against cancer. Off the track, participants pitch a tent where they can relax, or take part in various games, attractions and live performances. Amid school shutdowns and physical distancing regulations for COVID-19, the nine person Relay for Life committee at Nepean High School had to buckle down and get innovative.
“Our school spirit [is generally] lacking, but with Relay for Life, it’s almost like an entirely different school,” said committee member Siena Lesaux.
Clara Marty, another member, explained that in a school where the student count tops 1100, the event often draws at least a third of that number.
It ended up looking a little different this year, as twelve teams — made up of 125 students and 15 faculty members — participated in various games through the Instagram Live platform. The event included a scavenger hunt, where they were tasked with finding various household items, as well as a photo/video challenge, snapping shots of themselves doing silly activities like hugging a tree and recording themselves doing as many push-ups as possible.
Raising a total of $4,893 for the cause (according to late May tabulation), Marty and Lesaux said there was no registration fee, nor personal monetary goals, because they felt that it was more important simply to encourage participation and connection while students and faculty were isolated from one another during the pandemic.
“Given the situation right now, it’s maybe a little sensitive to ask for money,” said Marty. “So we were really understanding about how much money was raised.”
Over the past nine years, Nepean High School has joined the ranks of top fundraising schools in Ontario, generating a total of over $500,000, with $92,000 last year alone. This is all made possible due to various in-person initiatives, like bake sales and ice cream truck tours, none of which were feasible this time around.
For Marty, who was selected to shadow committee members last year, the event was a culmination of two years of hard work and extracurricular meetings. While she was slightly dissatisfied that the major event had to be scaled down, she was happy just to be involved.
“It makes you a part of something bigger than you,” she said, repeating the common refrain heard from their teacher, and Relay for Life faculty leader, Scot Symes. Without Symes, they said that none of it would have been possible.
“It’s nice knowing that we have teachers that are willing to take time out of their day during this hard time and help us out,” said Lesaux.
“We don’t necessarily see the impact that this will have on other people’s lives [but] $92,000 last year or $4,000 this year can really change [things],” Marty added. “It’s really cool.”