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SLU Relay For Life Innovates to Bring Community Together Online to Combat Cancer

05/14/2020

With a month to go until their big day, SLU Relay For Life converted an in-person event its organizers had been planning for more than 10 months into a virtual one as the University community moved to remote learning and work due to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Despite the quick shift to a digital format, the April 18 event put on by a SLU team of nearly 100 members raised $77,166.22 to benefit the American Cancer Society (ACS) from more than 300 event-goers.

Final tally from the 2020 SLU Relay For Life event.

The virtual event drew participants from across the nation. Submitted photo

Building a central website with links to survivor stories, interactive activities, mission moments, event itinerary, silent auction, and blog about the American Cancer Society.

SLU’s Relay For Life team also hosted a livestream of the event on Zoom to allow participants and donors to take part in the interactive activities in real-time, participate in the event’s traditional luminaria lighting and fight-back ceremonies virtually, and to be present for the reveal of SLU’s final fundraising total. The event reached donors around the country.

“It was a great way for our participants to honor their loved ones from the safety of their own homes,” senior Mallory Koller, one of the event’s chairs and an occupational therapy student in the Doisy College of Health Sciences, said. “Despite us not being able to join together in person, we were still able to call to mind the loved ones who have suffered from this horrible disease. We were able to place the person that we relay for on the top of our hearts and minds.”

Finding a Community and a Cause on Campus

Koller has been involved with SLU Relay For Life since her first year on-campus. Registering as a participant in the relay’s annual walk led her to fall in love with the event’s mission. This year, she joined the SLU relay’s Event Leadership team as co-chair.

“The love for one another within the cancer community is what drew me to become more involved with Relay For Life,” Koller said. “Unfortunately, cancer is everywhere, and everyone has been affected by the disease in some capacity.  Walking the track at Hermann Stadium and looking around to see the candles flicker with the names of those affected by cancer gave me a sense of community that I will never take for granted.”

“The love that is shared at the SLU Relay For Life event is unmatched,” she continued. “No matter what your story is, we all come together one night of the year with a common goal in mind:  to love cancer out of existence.”

Koller’s fellow chair, Andy Kneepkens was drawn to the walk because of its emphasis on combating cancer as a community. He served on the relay’s Event Leadership team during his freshman year and on its executive board for two years prior to co-chairing the 2020 relay.

“Relay For Life and the American Cancer Society create a supportive and loving community for those who are suffering from cancer and the caregivers that are there for those suffering,” Kneepkens said. “Despite cancer being the cause of some of the most suffering that someone can go through SLU Relay and ACS create a community of joyful people that want to love cancer out of existence.

Online Relay Event Brings Billikens Together for Others

Despite this year’s hurdles, Kneepkens and Koller saw it as a new way for the SLU community to come together from afar to help others cope with and recover from cancer in the spirit of cura personalis.

“We were also able recognize that those who are suffering from cancer are part of the community that are particularly vulnerable to the novel coronavirus,” Kneepkens, a senior double-majoring in finance in the Richard A. Chaifetz School of Business and mathematics in the College of Arts and Sciences, explained. “Although the event looked a bit different from years past, we were still able to come together as men and women for and with others.”

Want to Join the Relay?

To get involved or for questions and more information, add the relay on all forms of social media @SLURelay, email slurelay@gmail.com or visit SLU Relay For Life.


Saint Louis University is a Catholic, Jesuit institution that values academic excellence, life-changing research, compassionate health care, and a strong commitment to faith and service. Founded in 1818, the University fosters the intellectual and character development of more than 13,000 students on campuses in St. Louis and Madrid, Spain. Building on a legacy of now more than 200 years, Saint Louis University continues to move forward with an unwavering commitment to a higher purpose, a greater good.

Story by Amelia Flood, University Marketing and Communications.