Plans for this year’s Relay for Life at Father Ryan High School started slowly because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but finished strong with the event exceeding its goal by more than 60 percent.
“Our goal at the beginning of the year was $100,000,” said Matthew DiLucchio, co-chair of the event.
“And that was a stretch,” added co-chair Julia Eidt.
The annual Father Ryan Relay for Life event to support the American Cancer Society is the largest, per capita, student-led Relay for Life in the nation, and it raised $214,000 in 2019.
But organizing for the event this year, which usually begins in July, was delayed until September “because we were still trying to figure out this whole pandemic,” said DiLucchio, a senior and a parishioner at Holy Family Church in Brentwood.
“A month out we had raised only $6,000,” DiLucchio said. But a flood of donations came in during the final weeks and during the event on Father Ryan’s campus on Saturday, Oct. 31.
“The last two weeks before Relay we had so many people be so generous,” DiLucchio said. “We didn’t think people would be able to donate. They proved us very wrong.”
In the end, the event raised $162,087.14, and people can still donate online at relayforlife.org/fatherryan. All the money raised goes to the American Cancer Society.
Because of the pandemic, participation on the day of the event was limited, Eidt noted. Normally, about 1,500 people participate in the Relay for Life, but this year on-site attendance was limited to about 300.
“We usually get more money the day of because there are so many more people there,” DiLucchio said.
But the surge in giving ensured another successful Relay for Life. “It was awesome,” DiLucchio added.
Both DiLucchio and Eidt had personal motivations to participate in the fight against cancer.
“This year was really important to me. Two of my best friends lost their moms to cancer this year,” DiLucchio said. “I really wanted to do something as co-chair. I’m more than proud of our whole committee to raise so much money, way more than we expected to make.”
Eidt is a cancer survivor herself.
“I was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in August 2005. I had just turned 2,” said Eidt, a Father Ryan senior, graduate of St. Henry School, and a parishioner at St. Henry Church.
Acute myeloid leukemia is a form of blood cancer. “The cancer I had was like Pacman eating all my white blood cells,” said Eidt, who as co-chair followed her sister Maggie, who was co-chair in 2018.
As a young child, Eidt went through five rounds of chemotherapy at St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. “I was cleared in March 2006. I was in remission until 2010,” she said, and has been cancer-free since.
Eidt still has a yearly check-up at St. Jude and is participating in three clinical trials at the hospital. “I love that place. I want to work there when I’m older,” Eidt said.
“Obviously, I wanted to join Relay because cancer has such a personal connection. But it’s not only me,” said Eidt, who has had other family members who have had cancer. “That pushed me to do something more.”