04/27/12 “After 12 hours of walking, running, skipping, and a sort of odd hopping around the track,” the blog for the Culver Academies’ student newspaper reported more than $95,000 was raised during the 5th Annual Relay For Life of Culver that concluded at daybreak on Saturday, April 22.

That total pushed the Academies-hosted Relays to more than $585,000 raised in just five years for cancer research.

By Monday afternoon (April 23) the 2012 total had climbed to $97,000 toward the $130,000 goal with four months of fund-raising remaining. Online donations received through Aug. 31 at www.relayforlife.org/culverin will be applied to this year’s effort.

Hosted by the Academies in the Multipurpose Building, the student-run event attracted 62 teams, 650 registered participants, and 800 to 900 people were said to have attended during the 12-hour event. A number of local/area food vendors were be on hand, including the Fair Oaks Farm Taco Booth, Culver Coffee Company, Gladie’s Deli, The Lakehouse Grill (formerly Edgewater Grille), and Papa John’s Pizza. Fair Oaks of Demotte, Ind., is owned and operated by Culver parents Michael and Sue McCloskey and was the lead sponsor again this year.

“I am just so thankful that everyone came out to help raise money for an amazing cause,” said senior Marin Barnes of Culver, Ind., a co-chair of the Relay For Life Committee “Relay has been a huge part of my life for the past five years and it’s crazy to think that this was my last Relay For Life of Culver.”

  Indianapolis Colts’ running back Donald Brown, this year’s celebrity guest, told The Vedette, the Academies student newspaper, that “Relay For Life is a great event for a great cause; lives are being saved through such events. What I find so impressive about the Culver Relay For Life is that it was started by students.”

To current cancer patients Brown said, “Keep fighting every day. There will be good days and there will be bad days. It’s important to always keep your goals in sight.”

The Academies-hosted Relay was the first in Indiana to be student-organized in 2008. Relay For Life of Culver is a community event with participation representing the Academies, the town, and Marshall County. Relay planning is carried out by a student committee made up of eight subcommittees with over 100 student volunteers.

Barnes said “there is no way we could put together a successful event without the support of our school as well as the entire community.”

In his blog, Vedette staffer Joshua Silver, a senior from Pittsburgh, wrote: “There is a greater feeling in this room than one of fun and excitement and to simply help support cancer research. An aura of togetherness permeates the air; togetherness for change. And that is really what it is all about. No matter where our journeys take us, as long as we are together, we will be alright.”

Walking endless laps around the track represents the ongoing effort to eliminate the “drastic effects cancer can have on individuals, families, friends, and communities,” Silver wrote “We walk to remember our journeys. We walk to empathize with others’ journeys. We walk for our current journeys. We walk for our future journeys.”

This year’s Relay featured a fireworks display and a “Hello Gorgeous” makeover for a cancer survivor currently undergoing treatment. Academies staff member Dana Neer, whose 6-year-old son is recovering from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, spoke at the Luminaria Ceremony.

Neer gave 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. Ironically, as a college student Neer ran in the first American Cancer Society-sponsored relay in Pennsylvania in 1984. He has run in many since, but none more meaningful than this past weekend’s.

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.

“This year’s Relay was particularly important because it marked 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 made this such a successful annual event.”

Lew Kopp shot the photos.