04/20/12 More than 50 teams and 400 participants will be involved Friday, April 20, in the fifth annual Relay For Life of Culver. The overnight event begins at 7 p.m. at the Multipurpose Building on the campus of Culver Academies.

Student organizers have set a $130,000 goal for this year’s event, which will be held indoors and out. Many of the events will be staged in the Multipurpose Building on the corner of Indiana 10 and Academy Road, but activities and vendors will also be located in the grassy area along Indiana 10. Relay walkers will be able to turn their laps inside, outside, or a little of each.

A number of local/area food vendors will be on hand, including the popular Fair Oaks Farm Taco Booth, Papa John’s Pizza, and the Culver Coffee Company. Fair Oaks of Demotte, Ind., is owned and operated by Culver parents Michael and Sue McCloskey and is the lead sponsor again this year.

The Academies-hosted Relay was the first in Indiana to be student-organized and has raised more than $490,000 for cancer research since 2008. Donations to the Relay For Life may be made online at www.relayforlife/culverin.

Though one of the few student-run Relays in the country, co-chair Marin Barnes, a Culver, Ind., senior, said “there is no way we could put together a successful event without the support of our school as well as the entire community.”

New this year will be a “Hello Gorgeous” makeover for a cancer survivor who is currently undergoing treatment. Also, Academies staff member Dana Neer, whose 6-year-old son is recovering from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, will be the featured speaker at the Luminaria Ceremony.

The 10:05 p.m. Luminaria Ceremony, which honors those who have been touched by cancer and remembers those lost to the disease, is one of three special Relay events during the night. The inspirational Survivors Lap, which celebrates victories achieved over cancer, steps off at 7:30 p.m. and the Fight Back Ceremony – personal commitments – is scheduled for 9 p.m.

Neer will give a personal testimonial of his son Graysen’s fight against cancer. Diagnosed in August 2011, the kindergartner is on his way to a full recovery, though for the next year he will return to Riley Children’s Hospital every three weeks for chemotherapy and a blood draw.

When Neer asked Graysen if it was OK to talk his story publicly at the Relay, Graysen’s response was, “If I can help, share the story.”

“Cancer patients can look at Graysen and have hope,” said Neer, who will be joined by Graysen. “All the money raised for research does work.”

Ironically, Neer ran in the first American Cancer Society-sponsored relay in Pennsylvania in 1984 as a college student. He has run in many since, and had started a 12-hour Relay in Kokomo, Ind., before Graysen’s diagnosis.

Neer joined the Culver staff as a counselor in 2008 – the year of the Academies’ first Relay – and the student involvement was one of the things that perked his interest in the school. That involvement has not waned in the ensuring years.

“Our school and our kids are so focused on others,” he said. “They are truly motivated because they care.”

Relay For Life of Culver is a community event with participation representing the Academies, the town, and Marshall County. Initiated as a senior-service project, the Relay has since been carried out by a student-run committee comprised of eight subcommittees with over 100 student volunteers.

In a joint statement Head of Schools John N. Buxton and his wife, Pam, said, “Our Culver Academies’ community shares a common enemy with the town of Culver, the local farmers, and the residents of the lake: Cancer. Our collective efforts to eradicate cancer in the future derives us to work together to find a cure as we remember those who lost their battles and those who have survived. On this night we celebrate life and the courage it takes to live life fully and wisely.

“This year’s Relay is particularly important because it marks the fifth anniversary of this initiative begun by an enterprising young woman who wanted to acknowledge her grandfather’s battle with cancer. She and her friends energized and then mobilized an entire community to work together and make a difference. We could not be more proud of our students or the volunteers who together make this such a successful annual event. We look forward to seeing all of you there.”