Skip to content Skip to main navigation Report an accessibility issue

CCI professor leads Relay for Life endeavor

Submitted by info on April 15, 2011 – 10:30am


Bonnie Hufford
has a message for students, faculty and staff at UT.

Want to have fun while helping a good cause? Try staying up all night this weekend.

Hufford, instructor of journalism and electronic media and public relations at UT, serves as the faculty adviser for the UT chapter of Relay For Life, an all-night event aimed a raising cancer awareness and funding cancer research. Each year, nearly 3.5 million people participate in the American Cancer Society’s event worldwide, which raises more than $450 million.

The event will take place tonight from 6 p.m. until 6 a.m. at Circle Park on campus.

“Relay is a great, fun event,” Hufford, who has served as the UT’s Relay adviser since 2003, said. “I invited my class this morning. We’ve got live bands all night. There’s food, there’s activities. I don’t even realize I’m up all night.”

The fundraising event has been a staple of UT’s campus community since 2004, when Hufford helped launch the university’s first Relay. The event is widespread throughout the country, and when approached about advising a UT chapter of the event in 2003, Hufford, a 30-year survivor of leukemia, couldn’t turn it down.

“They said, “We think we’d like to start a Relay for Life event on the UT campus, and we think we’d like for you to help with that,” Hufford said. “I said, in my typical Ms. Bonnie fashion, ‘Sure, I’d be happy to do that.'”

Hufford was aware of other Relays around the Knoxville area. Several branches of the event existed in East Tennessee, like a West Knoxville chapter, a North Knoxville chapter and a downtown chapter, but UT did not have a campus event despite Relay’s popularity among other universities.

Without question, Hufford knew she had a job to do.

“They knew my history,” Hufford said. “My nearly 30-year history of having a chronic form of leukemia. I like to volunteer and do things for the cancer society.

“It was just a perfect matchup.”

Since UT’s first Relay in 2004, the event has become the campus’s largest fundraising effort. The volunteer staff set its fundraising goal at $60,000 for this year, and Hufford said the effort is well on its way.

“For this weekend, we are already at $40,000,” Hufford said.

The list of activities scheduled for this year’s Relay is as extensive as it is varied. Paying homage to this year’s Nickelodeon-style Relay logo, students can pay for the opportunity to “slime” their friends. A moon bounce obstacle course and a Dr. Pepper Pong Tournament will also be included. Rapper Swiperboy is even scheduled to make an appearance, as well.

“And of course, we’ll have a cornhole tournament, karaoke, Relay games, food, raffles, singing competitions, things like that,” Ashley Rae Needham, senior in journalism and electronic media and communications chair for UT’s chapter of Relay for Life, said.

Survivors are encouraged to attend the event, and money raised will benefit those striving to find a cure.

“So much of the funding that we raise goes right back into patient education, patient services and research,” Hufford said.

Needham said the support of Hufford makes planning the whole event that much easier. From helping with the event’s logistics to running necessary errands, Hufford serves as a jack-of-all-trades to volunteering students.

“Her dedication to the American Cancer Society and to Relay for Life has really inspired a lot of the team members to give our all for this project,” Needham said. “People like Bonnie really benefit from what this event has to offer.”

Hufford admitted her personality just wouldn’t allow her to stand by and watch.

“In the past, the adviser was more of a figurehead, just somebody who helped the kids get what they needed,” Hufford said. “I, of course, just had to take it to the next level.”

Everyone within the community is encouraged to take part in Relay, Hufford said, because cancer has affected every single person in some way.

“Most people, if you really sit down and talk to students or faculty or people from the community that show it, it seems that everybody has a connection somehow,” Hufford said. “It touches everyone, it seems. Everyone can identify with that.”

UT’s chapter of Relay For Life kicks off at 6 p.m. tonight at Circle Park and will continue until 6 a.m. on Saturday.

See the story in The Daily Beacon –