Relay for Life kicks off at 6 p.m. Saturday, April 5

Event raises money for cancer research and programs

More than 1,300 students will gather at Francis Field this weekend for Relay for Life, a 12-hour benefit for the American Cancer Society. Washington University in St. Louis’ event ranks among the nation’s biggest, and this year, organizers hope to raise $200,000.

Student volunteer Rachel Westrate can only speculate why Relay is so popular. One possibility is because many School of Medicine students and faculty are striving to find a cure for cancer. Another is that WUSTL students embrace the campus’ culture of giving.

But there is a third, not insignificant, factor: Relay is a blast.

“The motto is, ‘Celebrate, remember and fight back.’ We really try to do all of those things,” said Westrate, a sophomore studying environmental policy and English, in Arts & Sciences. “Walking around the track and seeing the luminaria reminds us of the lives impacted by cancer. But we also want to make it a fun opportunity for the community to come together. There is so much going on — the dancing, the music, the food.”

Performers include the Pikers, WUSauce, K.A.R.L. Improv and WU Chaahat. Participants also are invited to join the three-legged race, hula hoop contest and tug-of-war battle.

Here, Relay for Life organizers offer five of their favorite activities:

  1. Silent Rave

    At midnight, participants wear headphones and dance like crazy to the same tracks.
  2. Churros from the Rodriguez Scholars
    Throughout the evening, Rodriguez Scholars sell warm Mexican donuts to benefit the American Cancer Society.
  3. Decorated luminaria
    A highlight for many participants is finding their decorated luminaria among the approximately 450 lanterns lining the track.
  4. Themed laps (especially Disney!)
    6:50 p.m., participants circle the track sporting their cutest tutu, princess crown or Mickey Mouse ears
  5. Karaoke
    At 3 a.m., revelers channel their inner rock star.

To register and to view a complete schedule of events, visit