Relay for Life

Relay for Life holds several fundraising events throughout each academic school year for its annual Relay event in April. 

Relay for Life of JMU will start a new tradition on Jan. 13 with the Sleigh Cancer 5k, which will have participants run through the university’s campus to raise awareness and funding for cancer research.

The 5k will begin at 10:30 a.m. on the Festival patio. Runners will have the opportunity to register online or at the site on the morning of the race before it starts. Both runners and walkers can participate, as the event was designed to be open to all who wish to raise money and awareness.

Relay of JMU hopes that the 5k will be a fun addition to its programs at JMU, so it’s included a costume contest with prizes of food and bookstore gift cards for best individual costume and group costume. The top-three runners will also be awarded medals. Planners hope that the 5k will bring more attention to the Relay for Life event that takes place in April.

“This is the first year we’ve done a Sleigh Cancer 5k, so we’re really excited and definitely hoping to get involvement from all kinds of people,” Iliana Ioannides, the executive director of Relay for Life of JMU, said. “Not only might this appeal to athletes, but also just your average student who wants to get outside on a Sunday and participate in an event for a good cause.”

The Sleigh Cancer 5k is an example of Relay for Life of JMU expanding the programs it offers to the JMU community beyond the annual April event. Relay for Life is an organization that seeks diversity in its members, according to Ioannides, so the event is a new way of attracting people of many backgrounds to the cause.

Ioannides believes that Relay for Life of JMU is unique on campus as the only event that brings together many different people. Participants can be members of many organizations, students, faculty members, staff or any person regardless of differing circumstances. This is because cancer affects everybody in one way, shape or form.

The leadership of Relay for Life at JMU consists of students such as Ioannides who believe the eradication of cancer is a cause that deserves total dedication. Many have been personally affected by cancer in their own lives, or believe that ending cancer is a universal cause that can connect everyone in the JMU community, regardless of background.

“It’s important to have events like these because I think a lot of people don’t realize just how many people are affected by cancer,” Isabel Marr, a sophomore nursing major on the planning committee, said. “I know that I didn’t until I was personally affected. Everyone has their own reasons for being here, and it’s crazy to see how connected they are from it.”

Marr began her work with Relay after loved ones were diagnosed with cancer. After realizing how many people are affected, she wanted to do something to make a difference and to be around people who understood what she’d gone through. Relay for Life gave her that opportunity.

Another member of the planning committee, Sydney Robertson, a freshman hospitality major, has been a member of Relay for Life since the age of five. As the daughter of an oncology nurse, she’s seen firsthand the effects of cancer and work done by Relay for Life.

“It gives people something to look forward to,” Robertson said. “It’s something where they can find people that they relate to. Even if someone hasn’t had cancer, just being a part of Relay opens your eyes, and it kind of opens your arms, too.”

Robertson was excited for the opportunity to serve on the Relay planning committee at JMU, which began planning for the Sleigh Cancer 5k in November. The committee and recruitment chairs for Relay focused on including an element of fun to the 5k that would add an appeal to a larger audience, which led to the creation of the costume contest. The 5k is also part of Relay leadership’s plan to bring attention to smaller events and challenges they hold throughout the year.

“We wanted to do something fun,” Robertson said. “Just to keep Relay in everybody’s minds all the way up until the event, instead of just waiting until right before to get the word out. Even if people are just walking, coming and talking to everybody, and getting the sense of family that we have. Even if it’s just to show support.”

Contact Jamie McEachin at For more coverage of JMU and Harrisonburg news, follow the news desk on Twitter @BreezeNewsJMU.