MARQUETTE - Northern Michigan University senior Thao Do said it's a bittersweet experience knowing she's participating for a final time in the NMU Relay for Life.
"I started with Relay when I was a freshman five years ago," Do said. "I was asked by my roommate to be a team captain. I had no idea what Relay was but it sounded like a good thing.
"I showed up and fell completely in love with Relay," said Do, who's graduating in April. "It's everything I could have wanted to be part of. It's such a great cause. I don't know what I will do when I'm done this year. I will miss it."
Students participate in the 2011 Relay for Life at NMU. (Journal file photo)
This year's NMU Relay for Life is set from 1 p.m. Friday, March 23 to 1 p.m. Saturday, March 24 at the Vandament Arena. The annual event benefits the American Cancer Society and sees teams make their way around the arena, doing laps to raise funds.
This is the second year Do has served as the event's chairwoman, sharing the post with Karla Kopp.
"I am so grateful for the chance to be involved with this," Do said.
NMU?Relay for Life
1 p.m. Friday, March 23 to 1 p.m. Saturday, March 24, Vandament Arena on NMU?campus.
There is a committee of 24 students involved in the planning for this year's Relay.
"We started planning when school started," Do said. "We got together with the veterans first in August, then we brought the new people in and the veterans act as mentors toward them."
Subcommittees handle all sorts of areas like entertainment, food, speakers and the like.
"We have some survivors taking part in the Relay so we want to make them as comfortable as possible," Do said.
From the main committee, there is a decorations chair; an online chair who makes care of the event's website; a public relations chair; and a donations chair, who wrangles all the food and silent auction donations.
If the past two events are any indication, this year's Relay will be a huge success. In 2010, some 31 teams made up of 449 participants raised $17,300 for the ACS. And 367 luminaria - which are lit-up bags in tribute to those battling cancer and those who have lost the fight - were purchased and 12 survivors were honored.
Records were set in the 2011 NMU Relay for Life: 44 teams with 509 participants raised $23,777. Last year, 15 survivors were saluted and 429 luminaria were sold.
All sorts of fun plans have been made for events within the event for the 2012 Relay, including dodgeball, a backward dance lap, 3-on-3 basketball, a frozen T-shirt contest and a two-hour musical performance from the band Hozz.
Radio X, a campus station, will be on hand to provide music as well.
"We are lucky to have our Relay right on campus," Do said. She gave special praise to NMU employee Chris Busch, who helps get the building ready for the Relay invasion.
"I don't know how we got along without him," Do said. "He's just wonderful. Having him work with us has definitely been helpful."
The public can certainly help with the Relay as well.
Donations can be made through the website, relayforlife.com/nmumi. Luminaria are being sold in advance by the participants as well.
And of course, people are welcome to come to the actual event to hear a speech by a cancer survivor at 8 p.m. and by caregiver at 8:30 p.m. A special ceremony is planned at 9 p.m. to light the luminaria.
Hozz will perform starting at 10 p.m.
Concessions will be sold on site as part of the fundraising as well.
"North Star Academy is taking a field trip to the Relay with the K-6 students early in the afternoon," Do said. "The teachers and parents wanted to participate so they're bringing baked goods for the concession stand which is a big help."
Do said people are welcome to visit the Relay any time during its 24 hours.
"We're one of the only schools in Michigan to do 24 hours for their Relay," she said.
This year's Relay theme is sports, with an emphasis on NASCAR.
"The Relay is going to be a really great time. We're all excited for it," Do said. "But I still can't believe it's going to be my last one."
Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org