The Smoke Signal, MSJ's Official Newspaper


MSJ Relay For Life 2020-21 Raises $48,000 as Second in the Nation

By Staff Writers Joanne Park & Helen Tian

MSJ recently hosted its ninth annual Relay for Life (RFL) event from 12-6:30 p.m. on April 24 over YouTube, raising $48,113 to support cancer research. The RFL Event Leadership Team (ELT) organized this year’s event, titled “Relay Where You Are: The Sequel,” in hopes of providing the viewers a sense of community and the opportunity to honor cancer patients, survivors, and caregivers.

Garnering more than 570 views, the Youtube livestream featured guest speaker presentations as well as games covering topics from general facts about cancer to the importance of Relay.

The recorded livestream of the MSJHS Relay Where You Are: The Sequel is available on YouTube.

Throughout the day, the ELT hosted different online games for RFL participants, including crossword puzzles, scavenger hunts, pictionary, and other games such as Relay Feud, a game where teams try to name the most popular responses to survey questions. “The games were really fun, especially the Relay Feud. I think it was a creative way to interact with the audience and spread awareness for cancer,” RFL Participant Sophomore Nathanael Woo said.

RFL participants engage in a competitive round of Relay Feud.

Later on, the ELT hosted the Luminaria Ceremony, a dedication to cancer survivors and those who lost the fight to cancer. It included guest speaker presentations, musical performances, and the annual Tree Planting Ceremony. During the ceremony, Sophomore Katelyn Tran, this year’s top Relayer who raised more than $6,000, talked about the impact cancer had on her life and her reason for joining RFL — when she was nine years old, her older brother passed away from sarcoma cancer. 

The highlight of the evening was the Tree Planting Ceremony, a four-year tradition in the making. For the ceremony, the ELT reached out to local tree nurseries to acquire a cherry tree to plant near the MSJ track.“[In 2017], we began a tradition of planting a memorial tree each year to remember the people that we’re fighting for [and] the people who have lost that battle,” RFL Faculty Adviser English Teacher John Boegman said.

The ELT planted their fifth cherry blossom tree in honor of those who lost the battle against cancer.

After one last performance of Shawn Mendes’ “There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back” by Seniors Rishi Baskar and Soham Saha, the event closed with a senior send off and thank-you message to this year’s RFL participants. 

Though the ELT was able to pull off the event, they did face a few challenges along the way. Since the first MSJ Relay in 2013, there have been nine RFL events at MSJ. This year’s Relay was the ELT’s second virtual event ever and their first year planning it entirely virtually. Due to these circumstances, the ELT began discussions in the summer of 2020, rather than the beginning of the school year, so that the committee chairs could get to know each better and work together efficiently. “Every meeting, the leads and I were constantly worried about … teamwork. We wanted to make sure that people felt that tug, that responsibility and accountability to each other.” Boegman said. 

The ELT also found themselves struggling to find enough speakers and performers for the show. RFL Ceremonies Co-Chair Junior Tanisha Srivatsa said, “We had a really hard time finding students who were willing to perform at our event, so one of the other ELT chairs and I [thought], ‘Oh, we play instruments!’ So, we put something together. Everything came together at the end, but the journey throughout was definitely something.”

Despite these initial challenges, MSJ’s ninth annual Relay for Life raised $48,113, ranking second nationally amongst high schools. “I think it’s remarkable what we’ve accomplished. It’s beyond my wildest dreams … It’s inspiring. It’s one of the things that reestablishes your faith in humanity,” Boegman said. 

Cover graphic courtesy of Senior Aparna Singh

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