Relay for Life, Take Back the Night: A weekend of service

Seeing an Academy student at work can mean a lot of different things. It can mean anything from hearing a confident young woman answer questions in class  to watching as the food from a glorious bake sale vanishes before eyes. The work of an Academy student does not fit one mold,  but the spirit of “esse quam videri” can most easily be seen in the community service that she does.

Friday,  April 15,  and Saturday,  April 16,  were hectic days for many Teen Leadership Council (TLC) members and other Academy students who took part in Davis Island’s Relay for Life,  as well as the Crisis Center’s Take Back the Night in Hyde Park Village. During these two days some TLC members donated a total of 24 hours of service. This gift of time meant a lack of sleep for several of the girls, but their fullness of spirit, purpose, and heart more than compensated for it.

Relay for Life is the American Cancer Society’s main fundraiser. This fundraiser raises money that is put directly towards research and towards treatment and care to help cancer patients  fight back against the disease.  The event also gives cancer survivors in the Tampa community a sense of well-being. The event began at 4 pm at Seaplane Basin Park.

As team captain of Relay for Life,  I was suffering miniature anxiety attacks as I could not be at the event, which began at 4 pm Friday at Seaplane Basin Park,  until the next day because of the senior class trip to Universal Studios for the annual senior Grad Bash.  However, picture messages from MK Szikszay (my God-sent right-wing woman) and my mom put my worries at ease. The tents were up (thanks to the help of several volunteers),  and the event had begun. The night was Hollywood themed so activities ranged from pinning the lips on Cher to guessing the amount of goldfish at our own Little Mermaid tent. the track at all times. However, it was more common to spot one of our girls leap- frogging, dancing, or sprinting around the track, even at such ungodly hours as 4:30 am.

 Aside from the purely fun stuff,  such as karaoke, zumba, and the toga lap,  the night had its solemn moments. At 9 pm the luminaria were lighted.  The  white paper bags with a candle inside each shone throughout the night to represent loved ones lost to cancer.

However, after the long night,  the break of day served as  a reminder of hope and power for cancer patients and those affected in other ways by this disease.  By 10 am Academy girls had made their pledge to fight back, had raised more than $1,100 and were on their way home only to return at  4 pm in time for the start of  Take Back the Night!

Take Back the Night is a yearly event put on by the Crisis Center in Tampa and at other locations across the nation.  This event helps to empower survivors of sexual violence and educate the community on how to end these crimes. Scarily, one  out of three college women will experience some sort of sexual violence during their college years,  and one out of six women will be raped in their lifetime.

As a group of teenage girls, it isn’t hard to see why TLC members and other Academy students were eager to help out. TLC helped by selling home-baked goods to raise money for the Crisis Center, which gives aide to survivors. Also,  during the Empowerment March,  TLC members held up signs with frightening but honest statistics. This silent walk occurred right after the Men’s Pledge, in which over 240 men pledged to never perpetrate, condone, or tolerate violence against women in their communities.

The highlights of the event were definitely the candlelit vigil and the survivor speak-out. These moving events show the survivors that they can lead a full life in a loving community and demonstrate to the onlookers the importance of this cause, an issue that is so often hushed by society.

It was a crazy weekend, and some girls did not sleep from 6 am on Friday morning until 10 pm on Saturday night. However, ask any TLC member,  and she will tell you that it was an amazing weekend and  that the sacrifice of their time was hardly a sacrifice at all.

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Relay for Life, Take Back the Night: A weekend of service