Relay for Life, the signature fundraising event to benefit the American Cancer Society, recently ended its fifth and most successful campaign in the virtual world of Second Life after having raised over a quarter of a million US dollars in support of cancer research.
It may seem odd to be involved in a walkathon event, without leaving your home or doing any actual walking, but Fayandria Foley, the Relay for Life of Second Life Event Chair who has participated in the virtual event for four very successful years (three as the Event Chair) says it is also very powerful. She describes it as a “very intense mind to mind connecting with people at a moment of raw.” She says it is “more emotional and has a stronger impact” then doing the event at a real world location. “You are home in your comfort zone and you are Relaying; walking the track, seeing others there with you, hearing the songs, and reading the memories. There is nothing to pull you off of the experience.”
Foley joined the cause after receiving her own diagnosis of cancer. “I heard I had cancer, went to my car, and waited. I was going to kill myself; I couldn’t face cancer.” Foley says Relay saved her life. “I saw a Relay event at a High School across a street. At the time, I didn’t even know what it was. Those Relayers grabbed me up and gave me the desire to love my life and to live it; with cancer, but it live it without fear.”
Foley, along with the many virtual volunteers, did a fantastic job of making this year Relay nothing short of spectacular. The theme of the event was “One World, One Hope.” It was the largest Second Life Relay to date, with a track running 11,907 meters long, winding through 37 beautifully crafted SIMs. More than 1,900 avatars on over 120 teams completed a combined total of 2,155 laps, during the 24 hour virtual walkathon.
Foley, who after this year is stepping down as SL RFL Event Chair said,
“This was our largest and most successful Relay ever. We have put Relay for Life of Second Life on the map not only in Second Life, but also in real life. Gwinnett County Relay For Life (one of the largest perennial events in the USA, with more than 6,000 participants raising more than one million dollars) may be the biggest Relay for Life and the largest money maker in real life, but they don’t have participants from over 26 different countries, a survivor camp on the moon, a roller coaster, or sailing activities, they don’t have tinies and furries, they don’t have the ability to fly and to teleport from one side of the track to the other, and above all they don’t have you! We are truly One World!”
Second Life resident and Relay participant Kumi Kuhr said, “For me RFL is a truly public event in SL.. and is the most wonderful time of year to meet all types of people united for a common purpose.” One reason this occurs is because of the numerous public campaigns that are thrown by each Relay group. The campaigns feature a wide range of events for the Second Life community to participate from live musical performances, to specialized contests, to art and clothing auctions.
Another reason this virtual community is strong is that Second Life offers a way for patients and caregivers to feel less isolated. Many times they cannot leave their homes or participate in a Relay event at their real location so this virtual event gives them to have the opportunity to do their part, fight, and have their voice be heard.
Many people call the virtual world of Second Life a game. Events like Relay for Life and the communities it unites prove not only that Second Life is not a game, but it also has the ability to positively impact, change, and make a difference in our real lives. I applaud everyone who participated in this virtual event whether it was by walking, donating, designing, contributing, etc.
Next year’s Second Life campaign runs from March through July 2010, but you don’t have to wait until then to fight back against cancer. Visit www.cancer.org and get involved today!