The Relay for Life


Harvard and MIT team up for American Cancer Society event.



On April 7th Harvard and MIT will be hosting an event called the Relay for Life. People across the nation participate in local Relays to help raise money to support the endeavors of the American Cancer Society. This year, the Harvard-MIT joint committee for the Relay for Life has been fundraising, recruiting, and planning in anticipation of the event. Each committee member that I’ve spoken to is involved with the Relay for Life for many reasons, ranging from wanting to be involved with a good cause, to being cancer survivors and wanting to support others.

One such committee member is Sam Bieler, a Harvard student and a member of the class of 2019. He’s a Computer Science concentrator with a secondary in statistics.  In his spare time, he enjoys compiling sports analytics, playing video games with his friends, and playing sports. Of course, a lot of his time also goes into planning the Harvard-MIT Relay for life.

This week I had the chance to talk with Sam about his involvement with the Relay for Life. The first question I asked him was: why do you Relay? For many, this is a loaded question. As stated before, the reasons behind participating in the event are often personal. Sam’s answer definitely fell into this category and provided insight into what the event is like for cancer survivors.

“I was diagnosed with leukemia when I was in the middle of eighth grade, and I missed the whole second half of eighth grade and a lot of my freshman year. My freshman year, I saw that my school was running a Relay for Life event and all of my friends were getting involved, I thought, okay, well, I have a really close personal connection, I might as well go and see how it goes and see if I enjoy it.

And I just loved it when I got there.

All my friends were there, and the whole town was there, and everyone was clearly, visibly supporting me and all the other survivors that were there. It was such a fun event that I just decided to keep doing it. It’s my seventh year doing it now.”

Clearly, seven years of participating in the Relay has had a huge impact on Sam’s fundraising skills. A quick trip to the Relay for Life website shows Sam as one of the top individual fundraisers for the event with a total of nearly $7000.  The money he has raised, along with that which has been raised by other people participating event, will go towards helping the American Cancer Society assist those affected by cancer in the U.S. According to their website, The American Cancer Society is, “on a mission to free the world from cancer. Until we do, we’ll be funding and conducting research, sharing expert information, supporting patients, and spreading the word about prevention. All so you can live longer — and better.”

Relay for Life events are the signature fundraisers for the American Cancer Society.  They are organized by everyday people who want to make an impact on their communities. The Harvard and MIT committees for the event have come together to do just that.

According to Sam, being on this committee has been one of the most rewarding aspects of his time at Harvard.

“It’s definitely given me some of my best friends here, some of the people that I have met through Relay are awesome. We’re fortunate enough to work with MIT, so I’ve gotten to know some people at MIT as well, which is not something that you always get with Harvard, so that was great. I really enjoy getting to see firsthand how much support people can give, not only to me, but to everyone who has survived cancer and is going through it now.”

Sometimes the collaboration between Harvard and MIT for the Relay can grow beyond an amicable partnership. As of this week, the “competition” to raise money for the event is in high gear. At the time this article is being written, MIT is leading Harvard by around five thousand dollars. There is also a push for more people to register for the event. Before noon on April 6th, online registration costs $20, which goes towards your individual fundraising for the event. On the day of registration is $25 at the door.

“Why should college students participate in the Relay for Life?”

This is the final question I asked Sam. It can be difficult for college students to take time out of their schedules, which are generally busy, to participate in events like this, especially if they are off-campus. Sam’s answer provided several reasons for why it might be a good idea for a Harvard student to spend their Saturday night at MIT.

“It’s a great cause. The American Cancer Society does great things for cancer survivors and their families – finding them housing – things like that. It’s also an extremely fun event. There’s tons of performances, we have dodgeball games, a bouncy castle, there’s places to do homework, and there’s great food. So, basically, it’s got everything combined for a fun night. There’s also the luminaria ceremony and the survivor lap, which are both full of a lot of meaning for me, and for a lot of people I know. So those are just really great things to be involved in.

I think it would be great if people came out, and I’m sure they’ll have a fun time if they do.”

The event is set to start at 6pm on Saturday, April 7th, 2018. It will be taking place at the MIT Johnston Center Track, and there will be hundreds of Insomnia cookies there, if you’re interested in that kind of thing.

Anyone who is interested in learning more about the event, or in registering to attend, can do so at


Alaya Ayala ‘21 ( has enjoyed helping with the Harvard-MIT Relay for Life this year, and plans to have a blast at the event.