Just days away from the world’s largest collegiate Relay For Life, and Virginia Tech’s Drillfield is ready for a massive influx of tents, food, entertainment, and people. 

Relay For Life 2013 will start on Friday, April 19, at 5 p.m. and continue through Saturday, April 20, at 5 a.m. The all-night event raises awareness and funds for the fight against cancer. 

Student organizers predict there will be 6,500 participants, 65 teams, and $650,000 raised when the effort is complete.

The Relay For Life event is the capstone of a year-long effort to contribute to the American Cancer Society. Throughout the year, Relay For Life at Virginia Tech has been raising awareness, holding fundraisers, encouraging participation, and planning the culminating experience. 

“People think of the event as a one-time thing, but it’s really 365 days of fundraising,” said Bryan Wynkoop of Leesburg, Va., a senior majoring in marketing management in the Pamplin College of Business. “The event is a celebration of a year-long effort.” 

Wynkoop is co-director of Relay For Life at Virginia Tech with Emily Tanner of Eldersrburg, Md., a senior majoring in dairy science in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

It is a big undertaking. There are 23 students on the Relay for Life executive leadership team and countless others who volunteer their time and talent. Most have personal reasons for joining in the fight against cancer. 

Wynkoop has been involved in Relay For Life since his sophomore year in high school. “I had always done it to help someone else. Then my father was diagnosed with cancer and I lost my grandmother to it,” he said. “Everyone is affected by cancer. Everyone is connected. We’re all in it together.”

Even the HokieBird is supporting the effort. This year, the university mascot formed its own team for the event, and participated in fundraising by posing for photos on Valentine’s Day and going on the block for the annual date auction.

Social media has been crucial this year in spreading the word and encouraging participation. Relay For Life at Virginia Tech has lively posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. Local business sponsors have also played a part in promoting participation, through their on-line presence and in-store specials. 

The Pamplin Reinventing Social Media (PRISM) student group will keep up with social media throughout the event, with a tent and computers on the Drillfield in the middle of the action.

Since it began in 2001, Virginia Tech’s Relay For Life has won American Cancer Society awards and broken records, in both numbers of participants and donations. Wynkoop said strong directors in past years have laid the foundation for success, and Relay For Life has become a Hokie Nation tradition. 

“This is what the university community turns to in late April. There is a synergy with Relay For Life, the Big Event, and the Day of Remembrance,” he said. “Student involvement, faculty backing, and administration support differentiates Virginia Tech. The Hokie community is in the fight together.”

Vice President for Student Affairs Patty Perillo will speak at the opening ceremony Friday, April 19, at 5 p.m., followed by a celebration of cancer survivors at 5:30 p.m. Remembrance of those lost to cancer will be at 10 p.m. A fight back rally will start Saturday, April 20, at 2:40 a.m., and the event will close at 4:40 a.m.

Members of the university community and the general public are encouraged to participate. This year’s Relay For Life event coincides with Spring Family Weekend, April 19-21. Visiting families are welcome to donate, participate, or sign up as a team.

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 240 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $513 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.

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