Relay for Life

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I’ve only been home for a week and a half, and now I need to start packing to move back to Cambridge for the summer. Wow, time really does fly by. Before I know it, it’ll be the start of my second to last semester at Harvard. Scary!

As I’ve mentioned, I’ll be proctoring for Harvard Summer School and doing some independent research in the undergraduate labs on campus for the next seven weeks. Before all of that starts, though, I wanted to make sure I was really taking advantage of this 3-week, no commitment window. It doesn’t happen often! I was invited to speak at my community’s American Cancer Society Relay for Life, which was happening the day after I got back from my filming trip overseas (ouch, jetlag!). I’m sure many of you have (or had) things you were super involved with in high school. Two of my greatest passions are volleyball and public service, so I really structured my high school extracurriculars around them. In 2009 (senior year), my best friend, Madison, and I started the first Relay for Life in our community. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Relay, it’s an overnight event when teams of about 10-15 people camp out and walk around an indoor or outdoor track. The goal is to keep one representative from your team on the track at all times for the entire 24 hours. The premise behind this idea is that cancer is a disease that never sleeps, and therefore, the walkers don’t either. Fundraising occurs months and months before the actual event and Relay itself is filled with live music, games, food, and more. Each one that I’ve been to is unique in its own way; Harvard has its own Relay and it’s extremely different from my community’s event. However, it’s all for the same great cause, and at Harvard’s event, fraternities, sororities, and other student groups come out to fundraise, support, and walk. I think both are awesome. The reason why I flew back from my filming trip specifically for my community’s Relay is because this year was a special one. In just four years, we hit a total of $1 million raised. Unfortunately, the day was filled with wind and rain, but over 1,000 people still showed up to walk! It was almost like it was 80 and sunny outside. The event was truly unbelievable.

Madison and I speaking at my community's Relay for Life!

Madison and I speaking at my community's Relay for Life!

Attending Relay was the last thing on my agenda while at home, so it’s been nice to finally be in one place without anything to do. Since then, I’ve been bumming around, relaxing, working out, and soaking up boredom while it lasts. I think everyone needs a bit of “me” time after a period of hard work (i.e. my spring semester) in order to rejuvenate and reflect on your experiences. I can’t believe it’s almost over though! Two days ago, Madison and I went up to Mt. Sunapee, closer to northern New Hampshire (I live right on the border of MA and NH, right on the southeastern corner) and went on a (relatively) easy 2 mile hike. Hiking and being outdoors are some of my favorite things to do, so it was sweet getting away and being surrounded by nature for the entire morning and afternoon. For those of you who will be attending Harvard in the fall, you should consider the First-Year Outdoor Program (FOP) for pre-orientation! I did a different one called Dorm Crew, and don’t regret it at all because I met some of my closest friends through it, but if I could have done more than one, FOP would have been next on my list. Caroline has written a lot about the program in previous blog posts and I know a lot of amazing people who’ve loved it. By the way, it’s her 21st birthday today!

I’m traveling to New York this weekend to see a few of my blockmates (people you choose to live with in the same dorm building after your freshman year) who are all working internships there. One reason I like college summers better than high school ones is that I’ve been lucky enough to have friends in different cities, so it’s nice to see some familiar faces when you visit somewhere new. The next time I write will be from campus, and I’m sure I’ll have something about New York or being back at Harvard to write about. Until then!

At the top of Mt. Sunapee awkwardly using self-timer!

At the top of Mt. Sunapee awkwardly using self-timer!

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There’s an overwhelmingly negative connotation associated with college Greek life, which fairly arises from the too frequently heard about news articles of hazing gone wrong. Although the behavior concomitant with such tragedies are inexcusable, it isn’t the defining factor of Greek life. The Greek system still exists nationally and I believe the reason it continues thriving lies in the fact that there are endless (literally! The alumni networks are as massive as whales!) positive influences it can have on a member’s life.

I can personally attest to these benefits – connecting to a new support group, feeling more connected to campus, and expanding study groups – and that’s why my involvement in Harvard Greek life progressively dives deeper. This semester, I’ve been transitioning into my new role of Panhellenic Council Vice President of Philanthropy! Although I hate admitting that I have a natural tendency to snap at good news, I love the new opportunities my role avails to me – like participating in Relay for Life, an incredibly inspiring and national event to support those fighting cancer.

Three male fraternities and three female sororities exist at Harvard (although not officially acknowledged due to the institution’s rule against recognizing single gender groups): Alpha Epsilon Pi, Sigma Chi, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, Kappa Alpha Theta, Kappa Kappa Gamma, and Delta Gamma, respectively. Over the course of these last few months, representatives from each group met with me to organize fundraising events for the annual Harvard Relay for Life. Each year the Harvard Greek Team raises thousands of dollars for the amazing cause through personal appeals as well as creative ways, some of them exemplified below:

Pie Cancer in the Face: AEPi (Alpha Epsilon Pi) held an event where people could purchase a pie to throw in a brother’s face. Who needs dignity when cancer is looming as a threat? Haha, the boys definitely took pies in the face like the manliest men I’ve ever seen and raised over $300 in the span of four hours! Bonus points for the pun too!!

Date Auction: The Cambridge Queen’s Head (a restaurant/pub) located in the basement of Annenberg (the freshman cafeteria commonly referenced to as the Great Hall from Harry Potter) graciously donated their stage to the Harvard Greek community to hold a date auction for two hours. Twenty generous and studly fraternity brothers of Harvard volunteered themselves to be auctioned. Girls across campus (even some graduate students!) came to bid for a magical hour with these men, 100% of proceeds going directly for Relay for Life. The “Date Contract” read that the men had to be at their utmost gentlemanly behavior…but we’ll just see how my two dates go before we get excited. Yes, I did buy two. Hey now, it was for charity!!

BBQ: HUDS (Harvard University Dining Services) has some of the best programs!! Check out the stellar grade HUDS (and Harvard in general) got! On weekdays from 11am-2pm, HUDS serves prepared sandwiches, hot entrees, fruit, etc. in the Cambridge Queen’s head for upperclassmen too lazy/too busy (usually the latter in our defense!) to return to their upperclassmen House (dorm) for lunch – this is colloquially termed “Fly-By.” You can also request a brown bag to be prepared from your own dining hall when you know you won’t have time in between lectures, sections, and meetings for lunch! Another way HUDS ensures students stay nourished is by providing cookout food. The philanthropy chairs of each fraternity and I wanted to hold a BBQ before and during the Relay for Life event so we gathered students’ ID numbers and submitted them into HUDS who then provided us hamburger patties, hotdogs, condiments, buns, fruit, chips, and basically everything else we could ever dream of asking for. The BBQ was a hit and people even donated money in exchange for some BBQ! Sorry for not having any pictures 🙁 I was too busy grilling … or at least supervising the grill! 🙂

Overall, the events leading up to Relay and Relay for Life itself was successful! I had a blast working behind the scenes in my first Spring Philanthropy event and can’t wait for the one in the fall, which I’m hoping to organize with Cradles to Crayons. I can only hope that my last round of midterms (yes, I did have a midterm on the last day of class), presentations, papers, and final exams go just as well!!!

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