The 27th edition of Lab Gab live streamed on Friday, June 5th, and featured members of the Second Life Relay for Life team Stingray9798 Raymaker, Trager Alter, MamaP Beerbaum, and Nikki Mathieson, to mark the 2020 Relay weekend (which you can read about here). They were interviewed by co-hosts for the session, Strawberry Linden and Patch Linden.
The official video of the segment is available via You Tube, and is embedded at the end of this article. The following is a summary of the key topics discussed and responses to questions asked.
About the RFL Team
- Trager Alter has been directly involved in Relay for Life of SL since 2017 after being introduce to Stingray by MammaP. He’s been directly involved in Relay Refresh – telling the stories of people who have faced and survived cancer.
- MammaP became involved with Relay for Life of Second Life at a time when her father was suffering from cancer. It gave her the opportunity to do something practical to help raise money for cancer research whilst simultaneously caring doe her father in the physical world.
- Nikki Mathieson joined SL alongside of MamaP, and became enamoured with the platform, the opportunities it offers, and realised that it offered huge potential for Relay for Life, and became involved in RFL of RL for that reason.
- Stingray came to SL through the American Cancer Society, having been the manager for RFL’s on-line content. He was asked to look into RFL activities in SL as a result of RFL of SL volunteers working with ACS’s Innovations Team, and everything had reached a point where the Innovation Team were ready to hand it over to the ACS Relay Team, and he was asked to take the lead, so becoming the official liaison between RFL of SL and ACS.
What is the Relay Weekend?
- Every year, Relay for Life raises money for the work of the American Cancer Society via a season of events. Many of these are run by individual Relay Teams formed by Second Life residents, and some are “mega events” (such as the Home and Garden Expo, Fantasy Faire, the Sci-Fi Convention, Making Strides Against Breast Cancer and Xmas Expo).
- The Relay Weekend is the culmination of those events held during the core Relay season (February to June), where all the teams, large and small come together alongside the RFL track, each team with its own parcel to promote the work in providing care, support and treatment for sufferers of cancer in all its forms and their families and carers.
- The event carries the ideal of Relay events in the physical world by having members of each team take turns to walk around an in-world track for the full 24 hours of the event. This is to symbolise two things:
- When someone is dealing with cancer, they are no doing it alone, there are others who can support them and be with them.
- The 24-hour aspect is recognition that cancer never sleeps, and the quest for cures to it cannot rest either.
- The camp sites and themed regions all offer opportunities to socialise, to make friends and to learn more about cancer and how it can affect lives, be treated, etc., and the role of the ACS in all of this.
How does the Weekend Differ from Physical World RFL Events?
- Abbreviated history of Relay:
- In May 1985, Dr. Gordon Klatt, a colorectal surgeon from Tacoma, Washington, raised money for ACS by walking around the track at Baker Stadium at the University of Puget Sound for 24 hours, covering approximately 83 miles around the track.
- Throughout the night, friends paid $25 to run or walk 30 minutes with him.
- After this event, Klatt thought about how other people could participate in a similar event in their own community. He recruited a small team of people to host the City of Destiny Classic 24-Hour Run Against Cancer, and from this Relay for Life grew.
- Relay for Life events now take place in some 30 countries around the world.
- Events generally comprise:
- A Survivor Lap, which starts the Relay event.
- An Opening Lap, in which all the participants take a lap around the track
- A Luminaria Ceremony, usually with a candlelight vigil
- A “Fight Back” Ceremony, in which participants pledge to take specific actions against cancer.
- The SL Relay Weekend comprises the same format and key activities. But differs in execution:
- It does not require so much central logistical organisation and management.
- It does however, require far more infrastructure coordination.
- It is effectively a bigger event, both in terms of virtual vs. physical size (the 2020 track, for example, equates to some 6 miles), and in terms of the numbers of people participating.
- Teams are able to do more than “just” camp and walk the track: they can directly support fund-raising by organising and running their own mini-events and activities.
- It is a fully international event.
What is the Luminaria Ceremony?
- It is the hour of the event (started at 21:00 on the Saturday of the Relay Weekend, roughly half-way through the weekend.
- At that time, the track is darkened, and everyone in the Relay Regions are asked not to engage in open text or voice chat but to walk the track in silence or stand to one side.
- During the hour, the names of those to be remembered, as submitted by the Luminaria Dedication Form that has been available for some time before each Relay Weekend, are read out over the event audio channel (which can be best listened through via the T1 Radio pop-up media player).
- It is a time for people to reflect on how cancer has touched them personally, to recall those they’ve lost to the disease, or someone who is facing it as a part of their life, or someone who has seen it enter remission.
- Also honoured throughout the weekend are the names hovering above the Luminaria lanterns that line either side of the track, and through which residents can make a donation to RFL of SL (minimum L$50) and add a name / dedication.
How Has the SARS-C0V-2 Pandemic Affected ACS?
- Like most non-profit organisations world-wide, ACS relays on large-scale, multi-people fund-raising events, with Relay For Life being the largest annual event for ACS, with the primary RFL fund-raising period world-wide being April-May.
- SARS-CoV-2 has therefore significantly impacted RFL both as the ACS’ main means of raising funds, and the amount of funds overall that are flowing into the organisation on a daily basis.
- RFL of SL and Second Life users – and their families and friends – are therefore critical to the mission of ACS, by:
- Engaging in events such as the Relay Weekend and donating money.
- And / or by visiting RFL of SL page at the RFL website and making a donation.
- ACS and Relay teams around the world have recognised that RFL of SL is now the spear of fund-raising efforts.
- Second Life users have rallied to this call, at the time of writing, RFL of SL has raised around US $275,000.
- Overall, RFL of SL has raised some US $4 million (around L$1 billion) during the years it has been operating.
RFL of SL Events
- RFL of SL comprises a range of events, most of which take place during the core in-world fund-raising season between February and June each year.
- This period includes the majority of the mega events (Home and Garden, Fantasy Faire, Sci-Fi Convention and the Relay Weekend.
- There are also all the team events held across SL.
- There is also the Xmas Expo and Making Strides Against Breast Cancer in October, which is to be expanded to have its own Renaissance mega event.
- In terms of fund raising, Fantasy Faire remains the biggest mega event for in Second Life, with Making Strides also a focused and effective fund-raiser.
- Outside of these, mega and large events tend to evolve and change. There used to be a major RFL of SL clothing / fashion event, for example, and when breedables became very popular in SL, there was a dedicated Breedables Fair.
- The days of relay has also proved popular among communities wishing to support RFL / ACS. This started as the 5 days of relay in 2019 and had to be expanded to the 10 days of relay in 2020 to accommodate everything.
Where Do All the Donations Go?
- Kiosks for RFL of SL are set up to allow events and teams see how much they have raised and contributed.
- When a donation is made, it briefly goes to the kiosk holder account, but then is immediately paid out of that account and into the ACS fund account.
- RFL of SL merchant vendors work on the same principle of payment in, then immediate transfer of the amount to the ACS fund raising account.
- Funds are cashed out from the ACS L$ account in s similar manner: they are converted to US dollars and then process credited to ACS, not to any intermediary account.
- When the funds are received by ACS, there is a certain amount that has to cover expenses (e.g. the running costs associated with having a presence in SL), but all other funds beyond this go directly to supporting ACS in its various missions.
- Some of the money raised may be directed at a specific programme, as is the case with Making Strides, Fantasy Faire and the Xmas Expo:
- Money raised by Making Strides goes directly to the ACS breast cancer mission.
- In 2018 / 2019 funds raised be Fantasy Faire went directly into the Kenyatta National Hospital Hope Hostel in Kenya (see here for an initial report on this project from 2018).
- This year, the US $75,000 raised by Fantasy Faire is reserved for use in the ACS global mission.
- Similarly, the funds raised by the Christmas Expo are earmarked for the ACS child cancer programme.
- Funds not earmarked for specific missions / programmes is referred to as “purple money” and goes towards the ACS cancer research mission in the United States. ACS is believed to be the largest funder of cancer research in the world outside of the US government.
- Within SL, the funds pay for ACS island and all the resources, facilities and support than can be offered through the island directly to cancer sufferers and cancer care workers in-world, the Cancer Survivors support group, etc.
How Can SL Communities Get Involved and Help?
- Individuals can attend RFL of SL events and donate through kiosks, make purchases (where available), etc.
- Out-world donations can be made through the RFL of SL web page.
- Those wishing to form a Relay Team, run an event, etc., should go the American Cancer Society Island, or contact Stingray and the rest of the team participating in this Lab Gab session.
- Those wishing to help can join the Relay for Life Volunteers in-world group.