Out of the many charity events held each year, I can only think of one attended by, among others, hula girls, cowboys and pirates: Relay for Life.
UIS and Lincoln Land Community College held their own Relay for Life last Friday in the LLCC parking lot to raise money and awareness for cancer research. As a participant on a Relay team, I was able to experience an incredible night of fun and philanthropy and help my fellow students raise money for a great cause.
Relay for Life is an overnight event that celebrates cancer survivors while raising money for cancer research and programs of the American Cancer Society. During the event, participants take turns walking or running around a track from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., with at least one team member on the track at all times. Like many participants, I signed up to be a part of Relay because my own life had been touched by cancer. Only a month before the relay, I lost my grandfather, James Rook, to cancer and decided to participate in Relay for Life in his memory.
In the weeks before the event, the Relay teams worked hard to raise money, holding fund-raising and asking for donations. My team, Pat’s Pirates, held a fund-raiser that offered Valentine’s Day-themed singing telegrams, while other teams held bake sales and raffled off prizes to secure funds. Teams such as Twosouth, UIS Housing Survivor Tribe, Big Kahunas and UIS Student Government Association raised impressive amount of money and were incredible committed to working together and putting in their time and energy for charity. After a lot of preparation, we were all ready for our big night.
Upon arriving at Relay, we saw that all the student participants were already having a great time setting up their campsites and socializing. We also spotted teams sporting some great team-themed costumes and team shirts. After the opening ceremony, the laps around the track began. Despite the bitter cold and wind (the tents were really useful as the night went on!), all the teams were in high spirits as they participated in different themed laps, such as Red Rover, Simon Says and a backwards lap. We also enjoyed some great live music from The Translation, The Red Dress and No One of Consequence.
For the many participants who had lost someone to cancer, or who were relaying in support of a survivor, the luminaria ceremony was a highlight of the relay. Each luminaria was lit in honor of a loved one who was fighting or had succumbed to cancer, and was followed by a silent lap around the track. The Relay pageant was another highlight of the night. A twist on a traditional beauty pageant, the contestants dressed as the opposite sex and competed to be named Mr. and Mrs. Relay. Dressed as a football player and a prom queen, respectively, myself and my teammate Jeff Meyer entered the pageant and were crowned Mr. and Mrs. Relay against some tough competition.
At the end of the night, $15,000 had been raised for the American Cancer Society. I was happy to have raised $500 and Pat’s Pirates contributed just a little over an impressive $2,000. Our team had performed well and won the scavenger hunt, the Relay pageant and Most Decorated Campsite, and our tired but happy relayers were ready to head home and get some sleep at last. As for myself, I was so glad I had signed up. Within 12 hours at Relay, I had been a pirate, a pageant queen (or was it king?) and a small part of an inspirational experience. Through the efforts of some committed students, the fight against cancer can get a little bit stronger, one Relay at a time.
Tornado causes confusion at Sunflower
By Emily Martin - Public Affairs Reporter
Tornadoes luckily bypassed UIS on March 12, but some eastside residents said they felt overlooked by more than just the storm.
Some inhabitants of Sunflower Court, an area housing mostly families on campus, said they felt isolated during Sunday’s storms and were unsure of what to do in an emergency situation.
Erin Schraeder, graphic arts major and mother of 8-year-old Erica, said she first relied on word of mouth to guide her family through the emergency. “My daughter and I were in the bathtub under a mattress for about half an hour before we saw the police. Everyone was crowding into the storage areas, but I didn’t know if that was a safe place.”
Many Sunflower residents took shelter in the apartment’s storage units, and Housing Director John Ringle said that was right thing to do. In an e-mail sent by UIS housing on March 14, each residential area was told where to go during a tornado warning; for Sunflower and Clover courts, it was these storage rooms.
But Sunflower resident Terrylynn Banks said the rooms were not big enough for everyone as they began to fill up with parents and young children. “I heard other residents saying to go to the storage rooms. At about 8 p.m. we went in, too. The place was very small and some children were hysterical.” Banks has two sons, 14 and 19.
Many families at Sunflower said they felt their area should be notified first in an emergency, since many residents have small children and need more time to evacuate. Some residents complained they received mixed messages from neighbors and police – to seek shelter in storage rooms and, as police instructed the entire campus, to retreat under the Health and Science Building.
As campus police chief Don Mitchell explained, the university only had two officers on duty the night of the storms. “Since it was spring break, we were fortunate to have two officers. They went around with bullhorns, telling people to find shelter in the tunnels underneath the HSB and Brookens area. Then we started moving people to UHB because we smelled gas in the tunnels.” Mitchell said upon investigation the Springfield Fire Department found no gas leak in the building.
Officer Cindy Law was on duty that night. “At first, we didn’t see anyone at Sunflower, but then Officer Kuchar and I made another round and we saw the people in the storage area. I told them to drive over (to the HSB tunnel) or I would give them a ride. I didn’t realize how many people there were. I must have given a half dozen rides with at least six or seven people in the car at one time.”
With high winds and no electricity, residents said many people were scared to drive their own vehicles and took advantage of Law’s police car. Still, some residents said the process took too much time. “A tornado could have come by three times by the time we were all evacuated,” said one Sunflower mother.
Law said they had to first open the doors to shelter areas before they could bring students there. “When the sirens went off, the main campus was locked. Our first priority was to unlock those doors so that students would have a safe spot to go to, ” she said. The procedure took about twenty minutes and many residents saw police by 8:30 p.m. on Sunday night.
When the second storm hit, at around 2 a.m. the morning of March 13, some students had left shelter areas. After hearing sirens for the second time, Schraeder said she and her daughter ran outside pajama-clad, looking for a way to get to UHB.
Schraeder said Sunflower’s adjacent position from the main campus, across University Drive, made it difficult to see where people were going to seek shelter. She said a neighbor ended up driving them to UHB, where she and Erica spent most of the night.
“I just moved here in January,” said Schraeder, “No information whatsoever was given to me about what to do in a tornado.”
John Ringle said when students first move on campus, they attend an orientation where students are given access to disaster information. As just about all campus news and business is handled online, so are disaster plans. Aside from the Disaster Program Reference, a color-coded chart detailing plans for all weather emergencies found in classroom buildings and faculty desks, there is no physical plan apparent in student housing.
Ringle said he understood that electronic means should not be the only avenue for disaster awareness. “When the power goes out we don’t have the ability to watch the ticker screen at the bottom of the television or to access e-mails.” He said placing tornado and severe weather reminders in laundry rooms or common areas would be a good idea for the future. He also said he encourages students to have a battery powered radios as well in case of an emergency.
Lack of notification was the main reason for discontent among many Sunflower residents. It may be that, unlike some other housing areas, Sunflower was without an RA on the night of the storm because of spring break. Ashish Tetali, from Clover Court, said his RAs gave early warning to residents, while police were preparing shelter areas. “We didn’t realize how severe it was – at first we were all just hanging out.” Tetali said the RAs and the police did a good job helping students through the emergency.