One of the most enjoyable events held at Roanoke College is Relay For Life. It brings together a good portion of the campus’s clubs and Greek organizations to raise money for the fight against cancer. Every year clubs are put in certain spots on the back quad of the college where they organize fund raisers and have members walk throughout the night. This year, Intervarsity Christian Fellowship (the club I was affiliated with) decided that we wanted to do something a little different to bring in extra money throughout the night. Most clubs do some type of a bake sale, while others get more creative such as the club that had people pay to ride a horse. My idea this year, was to use the telescope to raise money while giving people a glimpse of the sky that they have probably never had before.
To do this we brought out the scope and set it up next to our tent in the back quad. Our target tonight would be the ever spectacular Saturn, which along with the Moon is the best object to show a first time observer. Early on there was little interest until we decided to move it next to the walking area where most of the people were. From this point on, a steady stream of people would step up and donate a quarter to Relay For Life to view Saturn. The most interesting thing about the various reactions came from how a good number of people refused to believe that it was real. They would look through the eye piece and say things ranging from “wow” to the occasional expletive. Following this, their eyes would dart up to the end of the telescope tube to see if something was dangling in front to trick them. The consistency in people’s amazement is what surprised me the most. Most of them had little knowledge that any type of telescope available to buy could reveal the rings of Saturn. Once a handful of people had viewed, they began to spread the word about Saturn, from this point on the donations started to come in much faster. By the end of the night around 50 people viewed through the telescope and we raised over 20 dollars for Relay.
Relay For Life is always a special event for me. In 1994 we lost my grandmother to cancer and although I was 6 and had only a basic understanding of what was going on, looking back and thinking about how difficult it must have been for my Grandfather, Mom and her sisters to lose someone so important and loving in their lives makes me want to help out in any way that I can to help find a cure. On this night, I was able to raise money for the fight against cancer while opening peoples eyes and imaginations to ideas and sights that have inspired me and made me view the world in a different way. You can’t ask for much more than that from a Friday night.