- Abby Jaskoski is a senior at Father Ryan High School and served as the Head of Activities for the Relay For Life Committee.
In August 2019, the Father Ryan community buried classmate and friend, Tristan Numbers. I remember sitting behind him in freshman biology. I remember when our teacher solemnly informed us that he had brain cancer and that we might not be seeing him as much in class.
I remember when he gradually stopped coming to school. I remember the night Tristan died, because Nashville had one of the biggest storms I have ever experienced. Group chats were somber as the news quickly passed that we had lost one of our friends to cancer.
I remember crying at Tristan’s funeral as his sister and peers stood up to share their fond memories of the impact he had on every person he encountered. Tristan was the main reason I decided to join Father Ryan’s Relay For Life committee. However, unfortunately, the list of people I relay for increases with each year.
In the early morning of Relay— before the hustle and bustle begins—the committee sits in a circle and shares why we relay. This moment is extremely powerful, as each person shares stories of people they know who have been affected by cancer, and why that inspired them to make a difference by being on the committee.
The exercise inevitably ends in tears, but the committee walks away inspired. It allows us to remember why we put so much heart, emotion and effort into this event. For the past two years, the “Why I Relay” circle made me realize how cancer not only affects the person with the diagnosis, but everyone around them — whether that be a caregiver, family member, classmate, friend, coach or teacher.
The powerful impact that Relay For Life has on our community
One of my favorite things about our event is that it brings so many people together. Teams from other middle and high schools — such as Pope Prep, Saint Cecilia and Ensworth— share in our community by forming teams and relaying alongside us.
Rivalries are set aside for a day, and we become one united team in the fight against cancer. This event has become a significant part of the Father Ryan community. The 13-year tradition has raised more than $1.4 million for the American Cancer Society and is the largest student-run relay in the nation.
We continue to work hard to make Relay For Life a success each year, because we know that our efforts will one day play a part in finding a cure for this disease that has taken so many of our loved ones from us.
My favorite part of Father Ryan’s Relay For Life is closing ceremonies. Luminaria, spelling out the word, “hope,” shine brightly in the dark gym as students, faculty and friends gather to close out a long day of fundraising.
This emotional end to our fundraiser begins with talks from our co-chairs and various people in our community who have a specific story or connection to cancer.
The talks are followed by a silent lap around the track. The lap serves as a time for everyone to walk hand in hand — symbolizing that no one walks through their journey with cancer alone. Once we’re all back in the gym, we do a big reveal of how much money have we raised.
This year, the gym was filled with cheers, cries and laughter as Ms. Michelle Mast, the school’s Relay moderator, announced that we reached our fundraising goal. The committee ran onto the floor and embraced one another. We did it!
In that moment we knew that every moment of stress and every hour of preparation was worth it all, because we are $175,233 closer to a cure.
Abby Jaskoski is a senior at Father Ryan High School and served as the Head of Activities for the Relay For Life Committee. She also runs on the Cross Country Team, is a Basketball Cheerleader, and a Student Ambassador. The school’s nationally recognized Relay For Life event took place October 30, 2021 on the campus.