If you only want to walk a mile in Jenna Loffredo’s shoes, you’re probably getting off easy.
Loffredo, a senior, has been involved with Relay For Life of Penn State and its annual 24-hour walkathon for nearly four years. She worked her way up the ladder and is now the executive event director of the cancer awareness fundraiser.
She’s enjoyed her time with Relay For Life and plans on continuing her involvement with the organization even as her time at Penn State comes to a close.
Below, Loffredo talks about what to expect at this year’s Relay For Life of Penn State, which will start at 2 p.m. April 9.
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Q: How long have you been involved with Relay For Life of Penn State?
A: I have been involved with Relay For Life of Penn State since I was a freshman. I joined our college’s Relay team and was immediately hooked. I applied to be a captain my sophomore year and was a member of the Luminaria Committee. My junior year I served on the Overall Committee as the Luminaria Overall. We work year-round to raise money for the American Cancer Society through luminaria bag sales. These bags honor and celebrate our loved ones and friends who have heard the words, “You have cancer.” This year, I have had the opportunity to lead our Overall Committee, captains and participants as the executive event director.
Q: What initially attracted you to the cause?
A: I was not familiar with Relay For Life before coming to Penn State. One of our Thon families had mentioned that Relay For Life was one of their favorite traditions to participate in at the end of the year with our (organization). I wanted to spend as many moments listening to the story of their son, so I attended Relay ... and I was hooked. From the beginning, I was quickly drawn to the statement, “Everyone has a reason to Relay — everyone unfortunately knows someone with cancer.” At Penn State, we want our community to know they are not alone in this battle. We are here to Finish the Fight, and we will continue to fundraise and spread awareness until there is a cure for this disease.
Q: What keeps you going?
A: As a senior, I hope everyone can look back at their Penn State story and say they have given it their all. Penn State provides us with infinite opportunities to fuel our passions and change our little corner of the world ... Relay For Life of Penn State cannot find a cure to cancer with our single event this year, but we can continue to provide funding for groundbreaking research that gives families more time, more time to spend together, and ultimately, a treatment that leads to a cure.
Q: How many student volunteers are involved this year?
A: This year, we have more than 1,000 students and community members involved in Relay For Life. We are anticipating more than 1,500 students in attendance throughout the weekend.
Q: What are some of the challenges in pulling an event like this together?
A: From a calendar perspective, our 24-hour event follows the largest student run philanthropy in the world, Thon. As an avid Thon supporter, I danced Thon 2015 in the same way I walk for a cure through Relay For Life. As a committee, we want our community to participate in Relay for the same reasons that they participate in Thon — for the pursuit of a cure. A scary statistic is that one in three people will develop a type of cancer in their lifetime. As a school, through both Relay and Thon, we can help lower that statistic and show families affected by cancer we stand by them all year long.
Q: Relay for Life Penn State raised more than $100,000 in 2015. Do you have a fundraising goal in mind for this year?
A: Last year, Penn State exceeded our goal of donating more than $1 million since our organization came to campus 11 years ago. Relay For Life of Penn State strives to give all that we can back to the community and to families who have received a cancer diagnosis. We hope to reach $100,000 again this year to financially give all we can to those in need.
Q: Have you participated in the 24-hour walk-a-thon before? What’s the key to staying on your feet for that long?
A: With our event on the HUB lawn for the first time, we expect our participants to get quite the workout from walking up and down the hills! However, we want to remind everyone that Relay For Life is not a race. The event is called Relay For Life because we encourage all teams to have someone walking the track at all times to show, “cancer never sleeps, so neither should we.”
Q: Aside from the walk-a-thon, what else can people look forward to at the event?
A: We have a packed 24-hour event. Participants can listen to local bands, hear amazing vocals in a capella performances, and watch various performances throughout the weekend. We also have club sports setting up games for participants to play and our entertainment captains have provided activities to keep participants engaged throughout the weekend ... We also have theme hours throughout the weekend that include PSU Pride Hour, Disney Hour, #TBT Hour, Harry Potter Hour and Olympic Hour.
Q: For you, what has been the most rewarding aspect of working on this project?
A: One of the most rewarding aspects of working on this project is seeing Penn State unite for a common goal. With an event like Relay For Life, we are able to meet student orgs that vary from astronomy club to Zeta Tau Alpha sorority. Each organization has a mission statement that they hold near and dear to their hearts throughout the entire year. We are happy to see that various student organizations have decided to give back to their community through Relay For Life. We are able to show survivors and their families that the story of their journey is important to every single student at Penn State.
Q: You’ll be graduating at the end of the school year. Do you see yourself continuing to participate in some capacity with Relay for Life even as you move forward with your own?
A: I do plan on staying connected with Relay For Life. From a Penn State perspective, I look forward to seeing how the event grows both in this upcoming year and for the future. As a young organization, we look for ways to improve our event from a fundraising and awareness aspect. I hope to be involved in my community’s Relay in any aspects I can (as long as it doesn’t get in the way of grad school). I hope I can bring my ideas and lessons I have learned from Penn State to help improve Relays around the nation.
IF YOU GO
What: Relay for Life of Penn State
When: 2 p.m.-2 p.m. April 9-10
Where: HUB lawn, University Park