Emily McCloud of Richmond, Virginia, a senior majoring in mathematics in the College of Science, has served Relay For Life at Virginia Tech from behind the scenes for the last three years.

This year, for the first time, she will walk the track, hear the speakers, experience the sense of community, and witness the spirit of Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) as thousands within the Virginia Tech community come to raise money for cancer research.

Relay For Life at Virginia Tech starts at 5 p.m. April 24 on the Drillfield and continues through the night until 5 a.m.

For McCloud, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) and Relay For Life mean honoring the legacy of her family members and the courage of her mother.

“I lost my dad to cancer when I was 12,” said McCloud, who serves as director of Relay For Life at Virginia Tech. “Growing up, I always remembered him, but there was nothing I was doing to really give back. I watched my mom deal with a lot — my aunt passed away from cancer nine months after my dad, and my grandpa died of cancer as well. I relay in loving memory of all of them and in honor of my mom, who is the one of the strongest caregivers I know.”

Since Relay For Life at Virginia Tech began 14 years ago, the organization has raised more than $4.5 million for cancer research. For the past six years, Virginia Tech’s chapter has been, by far, the largest university Relay for Life in the world, raising more than $500,000 and recruiting more than 5,000 participants each of those years to help find the cure for cancer. The next university in the rankings raises about half of those donations with just 1,500 participants.

But, to McCloud, she’d rather it not be so.

“I don’t want there to be this huge gap. Knock us off the top,” McCloud said. “One in two men and one in three women will be affected by cancer, and I’m just not okay with that. I don’t think anyone should be. College students have so much potential to make positive change in our world.”

Throughout the night, attendees can expect endless energy and excitement, as music and dance performances, student organizations, and speakers take the stage. The Drillfield will be covered with tents, activity stations, and vendors to raise money for the cause. Ceremonies to honor those who have battled, are still fighting, or lost the fight to cancer will structure the night to remind participants that the mission of Relay For Life is finding a cure.

E. Scott Geller, Alumni Distinguished Professor of Psychology and director of the Center for Applied Behavior Systems at Virginia Tech, has battled cancer for more than 13 years. A keynote speaker at almost every Relay event, Geller is inspired to see young people come together to “help cancer survivors survive.”

“The monetary support for cancer research is critical,” said Geller. “In fact, it’s my guess that cancer will not be an issue in the lives of most students because of research.”

Students, faculty, staff, and community members are all invited to participate in Relay For Life. Day-of registration will be available at the Drillfield, but the organization encourages individuals to sign up online prior to the event.

Relay For Life coincides with Spring Family Weekend, and families are encouraged to participate together to bring awareness and support to the fight against cancer. Donations to a team, individual, or Relay for Life as a whole can be made online.

“Whether you’re able to raise $10 or $100 dollars, every penny counts. If you can say you helped fight back against cancer, one day, when we see a cure, you’ll know that the dollars you raise made that possible,” said McCloud.

“You’re at Virginia Tech with the number one collegiate Relay. You chose Tech because of its foundations. While you’re here, you have the opportunity to fight back. Do it.”

Written by Holly Paulette.