Every Step Counts: Relay For Life

All opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy, position, or opinion of OC Hillel.

Ketzia Abramson is a Senior at Chapman University majoring in IES. She is an aspiring higher education student affairs professional


Relay for Life.

Three little words, twenty-four long hours, and one giant impact.

The yearly walkathon, hosted by hundreds of communities and college campuses across the United States, is a staple event of the Spring semester at Chapman University. This will be my third year participating in the event and my second time as a team leader for the Orange County Hillel community. The set-up for this event may be fairly similar each year, but as the event’s date draws closer, something feels different this time around.

I presume these feelings stem from the fact that as an undergraduate senior, this may very well be my last time participating on Chapman’s campus. I also have to take into consideration that as a team leader, and as Chapman Hillel’s Director of Social Action, there is a lot of pressure that falls to me to make sure that not only does our team do well in its fundraising efforts, but also to ensure that every team member finds meaning in this experience.

Tzedakah is a Hebrew term that is commonly used to mean charity. It falls in line with Jewish teachings, that we all have a religious obligation to do what is right and this is a fundamental aspect of leading a spiritual life. Regardless of what we have, we should always be trying to help others. This resonates deeply with many college students who although financially struggling themselves, work to raise funds and donate to Relay for Life. We have an obligation to reach out to those who are unable to help themselves, not because it makes us feel better or because it looks good from an outsider’s point of view, but because it is simply the right thing to do.

Unsurprisingly, people don’t connect with every support effort out there because they don’t resonate with them personally. Yes, we can be empathetic to others’ pain and loss, but you would be more compelled to give to an organization if it was directly connected to your life. This is why a majority of the contributors to Relay for Life are either cancer survivors themselves or the loved ones who have unfortunately lost friends and family members to cancer.

Up until last year, I had never known of anyone who had lost their battle to cancer, and as a result never felt extremely compelled to donate or fund-raise for the cause. That’s the crazy part about life though, everything, including our mindsets and what we value, can change in an instant. Cancer isn’t biased and it can happen to anyone at any time. As a young college student, I still very much has this invincible mindset where I assume I’m going to live a long, healthy, and prosperous life. Imagine waking up one morning and having your entire life change because of a disease that is completely out of your control. It’s not right and it isn’t fair, but neither is cancer.

Every year we see it take friends and family members and children. So we walk. We walk to help those who unfortunately can walk to help others. We lend a helping hand in the hopes of finding a cure and with the mentality that were the roles reversed someone would be doing the same thing for us. That’s the beauty of being human.  

This year I’m walking for a family friend whose wife and daughter miss him greatly and for my father’s dearly beloved best friend. We don’t get to have a say in things that happen to us, but we always get to choose how to react. We take the time to mourn and remember the ones we have lost, and then it is our duty to honor their lives by picking ourselves up and helping those who are still fighting. Cancer doesn’t win when it takes another life, it wins when decide to stop helping those who are still and will be affected. Cancer is an ongoing battle, but every day, with every dollar fundraised and every step taken, we are another step forward to finding a cure. I’m more compelled to participate in Relay for Life this year because I miss my friend and because I know my dad misses his, but that isn’t the whole picture.

This is what is right. This is what we, as members of either the Jewish, Chapman, or Orange community have an obligation to do. It is what we, as humans with our best altruistic qualities buried deep within us, know we have to do. Participating in Relay for Life has never been about choosing to do something good, it’s all about knowing where we need to be and what we know we need to be doing.

Relay for Life at Chapman University is Friday April 6th – Saturday April 7th 12pm-12pm

To donate or to join our team, click HERE

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