Lighting the Way for Relay, Luminaria Ceremony Honors Lives Impacted by Cancer

Story posted April 22, 2023 in CommRadio, News by Cassie Baylis

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – A tradition Penn State Relay for Life centers around, the Luminaria Ceremony provides an opportunity for participants and attendees to honor loved ones impacted by cancer.

During the ceremony, guest speakers share stories about how cancer has affected their lives, as everyone joins together for the same cause

“It’s just a nice hour to remember why we’re doing what we’re doing,” Jessie Evans, Penn State Relay for Life executive event director said.

Evans stated this is one of her favorite parts of the day of Relay for Life.

The main objective of this portion of the night is to provide an open opportunity to discuss cancer-related experiences and to give a reminder of why people have chosen to participate in the 12-hour walk-a-thon.

The luminaries, white paper bags decorated with personalized messages or drawings, are each lit around the track during the ceremony.

“They are all either in memory of somebody who’s lost their life to cancer or in honor of somebody who is currently fighting cancer or has completed their fight with cancer,” said Evans.

Even if the emotional or mental aspects of the ceremony do not shine through in an apparent enough way, the abundance of luminaries dedicated can reveal how impactful a tradition like this might be for those in attendance.

“We turn off all the lights, so the only light in the room is the little candles that are in the bags,” Evans said.

For a $10 donation, anyone can dedicate a luminaria to someone they wish to honor, by making the dedication on the American Cancer Society website, in the “Dedicate A Luminaria” tab.

For more information about donating or dedicating a luminaria, visit

Cassie Baylis is a third-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact her, email