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Mill Valley News

The student news site of Mill Valley High School

Mill Valley News

The student news site of Mill Valley High School

Mill Valley News

By Emma Clement
Illustration based on a photo by Avery Cole of the four Relay for Life chairs.

Students show their school spirit through planning for and attending Relay for Life event

Community joins together for a night of fun to raise $77,000 for the American Cancer Society Saturday, March 23

For the past nine years, Relay for Life has been one of the school’s biggest events. Relay for Life not only brings students, staff and community members to the school for a fun night of activities, but also repeatedly raises tens of thousands of dollars to support the American Cancer Society. This event embodies the spirit of Mill Valley and what students can do when they come together to support a cause. At this year’s event, thousands of people joined together to raise a grand total of $77,000 to support cancer research.


Photos by Molly Griffin (By Emma Clement)

While Relay for Life itself only lasts one night, there are multiple smaller fundraising amounts throughout the year to help raise as much money as possible. In addition to these other events, committee chairs, executive leadership team members (ELTs) and committee members meet throughout the year to plan for the overnight event in the spring. 

This year, Relay for Life has four chairs: seniors Molly Morgan and Ellie Walker and juniors Elly Hayes and Meg McAfee. These chairs are each in charge of multiple committees and coordinate with the event sponsor, psychology teacher Kirsten Jones. Senior Molly Morgan, chair of accounting, teams, fundraising and everything committees, explained that the planning for this year’s event and activities actually started in the previous school year.

We started planning in May, and we met a couple of times over the summer and planned all of our fundraisers throughout the year,” Morgan said. “At the beginning of the year, all the chairs worked together for all the fundraisers that we had. Once it got closer to November, we all split into our individual committees that we had to take care of.”

Once the chairs have split into their committees, they begin to delegate tasks to committee members to get more students involved, according to Walker. As chair of missions, activities, ceremonies and luminaria committees, Walker explains what her tasks throughout the year were.

“A lot of [the planning] was trying to get the committee involved in helping out with things,” Walker said. “For missions, we would go to the elementary schools and put on assemblies to promote the event and try to get the elementary school students and their families involved. For luminaria that was a lot of just going through the order form and checking off orders. I had the Venmo and so it was a lot of different payments coming in, so keeping track of all of those was a pretty big workload. Then ceremonies is just writing the ceremony scripts and activities is planning all the activities for the night of.”

Marker in hand, sophomore Macy Brunner decorates one of many luminarias for the night of Relay for Life. (By Avery Cole)

Jones explained that a lot of the planning also includes discussions of what would get students and community members alike most interested and involved.

“We spend from fall up until the spring, just doing a variety of different fundraisers: trying out new fundraisers and doing the ones that have always worked,” Jones said. [Then we start] coming up with decorations and reaching out to community vendors and inviting people to come to the event. Then all of February and March is dedicated to communicating to the participating teams and getting all of the logistics, the insurance things in line and just some of those obnoxious details.”

The Relay for Life ELTs are the next leadership position after the chairs and they are in charge of smaller aspects of Relay for Life leading up to the event. For example, junior Celeste White explains her role as a social media manager for Relay for Life.

“I’m just in charge of making posts on Canva for whatever my chair tells me to do, so like making posts for Purple Bomb,” White said. “[My job is] just telling people what they need to do and then just posting it on Instagram.”

Hosting smaller fundraising events is helpful in a multitude of ways according to Jones.

Preparing for Relay for Life, a committee member creates a poster for the silent auction.
(By Avery Cole)

“The whole purpose of Relay for Life is to raise as much money as possible for the American Cancer Society,” Jones said. “They had learned over the years that our space here at Mill Valley can only hold so many people. Whether the event is inside or outside, there is a limited capacity. We felt like if we weren’t doing fundraisers throughout the year, we were capping how much money we could possibly make. If we have a limited number of people that can come through our doors at the event, how can we tap into more people at other times? So that’s primarily just an attempt to get more money in our total. It also allows us to have some money in our funds to spend on the event.”

Aside from event planning, students who plan to attend Relay for Life as part of a team also need to plan ahead throughout the school year. Each student must raise a minimum of $100 to stay for the entire night. Students who are part of teams must also plan a booth for community members that matches the theme of the event, according to Senior Gwen Heideman, a team captain.

“It’s a lot of organizing people and finding the things that you want each member of your team to do,” Heideman said. “[It’s mainly about] being creative and coming up with ways that you can take the original idea of the [required things to do] that they give us and make it even better.”

Jones enjoys the creativity that the students bring to this aspect of the event each year.

“We make a lot of money off the ticket sales for the kids to play the carnival games and that’s always one of my favorite parts because you’re seeing so much creativity from the student teams and they’re having fun with the theme,” Jones said.

All Year Long: The events Relay for Life hosts for students throughout the year
Bark For Life

A fundraising event for students to bring their dogs and participate in activities. The dogs can go through all kinds of obstacle courses.


Relay Relays

This event incorporates field games to raise more money for the American Cancer Society.

Donut Sale

For this event, Relay for Life committee members and volunteers sell donuts at school for students to buy.

Chipotle Night

This event is a partnership with the local Chipotle restaurant, so students can buy food there and part of the proceeds are donated to Relay for Life.


Working the registration table, junior Kenzie Johnson talks to special education teacher Faith Bilyeu. (By Avery Cole)

Starting at 6 p.m. on the night of Relay for Life, Saturday, March 23, students must have their booths ready for children from the community. With booths filling the entire auxiliary gym, there are plenty of games and activities for community members to choose from. 

Before she was a chair, and even before she was a student at Mill Valley, Walker attended the Relay for Life event to participate in the fun games at booths. This helped her feel connected to the school before she even attended.

“Having my sisters there in general helped me feel connected because I knew a lot of their friends,” Walker said. “Being able to go to a Relay for Life event and see people I knew were running the booths was just really encouraging and it made me feel like I belonged.”

Monticello Trails Middle School sixth grader Ayla Hurt has attended the event for three years now. Her brother is a sophomore at the school, but she attends because she simply enjoys it.

In between activities, seniors Grant Feuerborn, Jude Middleton, Tristan Baker and Porter Slattery play a competitive game of “spike ball.” (By Molly Griffin)

“I just like coming here because I know it’s for a good cause and there’s just so many fun things to do,” Hurt said.

Freshman Josie Danielson attended Relay for Life before she was a student at the school, and thought it was fun to be on the other side of the booths now.

“​​It’s fun to just do our own booth,” Danielson said. “We made slime at our booth and it was really fun getting to see all the kids get happy.”

Senior Olivia Moore echoed this thought, saying that seeing the kids happy is one of the best parts.

“All your friends can help the community and have fun games with little kids and it’s so fun to see each little kid have a little smile on their face when they play your game,” Moore said.

Scanning his phone, senior Garett Cronin buys food from the food truck. (By Avery Cole)

Jodi Fischer was a chaperone for a team at this year’s Relay for Life. She is the parent to a freshman, sophomore and senior currently attending Mill Valley and has enjoyed seeing the many different ways the students connect with the community through their booths.

“It’s just fun to see all the kids supporting each other and their creativity on the games and how they try to entice the little kids,” Fischer said. “It’s a really good team effort. I think they all come together to accomplish one goal, which is to raise money.”

Fischer also enjoys the community aspect of the event as she works in the district so she gets to see some of the kids she works with. 

“I’m a nurse in the district,” Fischer said. “It’s really fun for me to see all the elementary kids throughout the different schools and from our neighborhood. It’s really a fun community event for sure. It feels like a little town and a big city which is fun.”

Microphone in hand, senior Ellie Walker introduces guest speaker and cancer survivor speaker Lisa Herkenrath. (By Avery Cole)

The event is not just for young children though, any and all community members are welcome at Relay for Life. Heideman believes that one of the best aspects of Relay for Life is that it brings people of all types together.

“It’s for all ages,” Heideman said. “We see tiny little babies and then also [elderly] people coming in. It’s just a wide variety of people that are coming through all different members of the community, regardless of if you have connections to the school or not.”

Team chaperone Jennie Strathman has a sophomore daughter running a booth, and she believes that having community booths is beneficial to both the students running it and the kids [participating because of the life skills gained.

“I think it forces [students] out of their comfort zone,” Strathman said. “It makes them be leaders in their own environment. It helps them to be leaders for the younger kids to get them involved and wanting to come into this world.”

Options to Choose From: Spotlights on some of the different booths available to community at the event
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By the time the public leaves Relay for Life at 10 p.m., a packed schedule of activities for students spending the night has already begun. Eight activities are featured from 6 to 10 p.m. for community members to enjoy, but only students who raise $100 can participate in the additional 13 activities from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m..

With a big smile, junior Maggie Wieland performs the “Macarena” with other Relay for Life participants. (By Avery Cole)

From Zumba to trivia, there is a wide variety of activities available for students at Relay for Life. These activities may seem random, but they have all made the cut for their own reasons, according to Jones.

“Zumba has been a part of it from the beginning, and it will never go away because it is everyone’s favorite,” Jones said. “We always try to stick with the things that when you look at how many students are in the gym, it seems like most participating students showed up for that activity.”

White agreed that Zumba was a classic activity that every student seemed to enjoy.

“I feel like Zumba was a big hit,” White said. “That was one of the first events after the public left, so it was just the committees and teams that were there. We had an instructor come in and everyone was just into it and having fun with it.”

Playing “Knockout” in the middle of the night, seniors Jack Fulcher and Addison Bailey compete against each other. (By Molly Griffin)

However, the activities committee is always updating the activities they offer, which meant two new additions to this year’s event schedule.

“We did try out some new things this year with the silent disco and the cake decorating and those were huge hits, so those will probably make the list again next year,” Jones said. “It really just comes down to the activities committee sitting there early on in the year and thinking about what would get people excited.”

For freshmen who have attended the event before but have not yet been able to spend the night, these later activities are especially exciting. At the event, Danielson explained that staying the night is the biggest difference in being a part of a team at Relay for Life this year.

Making bracelets with friends, senior Olivia Moore cuts the string on her bracelet. (By Molly Griffin)

“Staying the night is going to be fun,” Danielson said. “I’m excited for the pizza party and cake making competition tonight.”

Spending the night at the school is meant to symbolize the fight against cancer, as the Relay for Life instagram account said in a caption “Cancer never sleeps and we won’t either at Relay.” The event has not gone through the entire night some years, but this year’s leadership team opted to extend the event to 12 hours to represent a journey in the fight against cancer.

However, understanding the fight against cancer is not the only effect of spending the night at the school. Students are also able to bond through staying awake and active throughout the entire event and to represent how much they care about supporting the American Cancer Society. 

Junior Eric Penner speaks into the microphone during the Mr. Relay competition. (By Avery Cole)

In addition to staying awake, students like junior Eric Penner can also put on a formal dress to show their support for the cause. Penner was the winner of Mr. Relay, an activity during which one boy from each grade puts on a formal dress and raises money from those at the event. echoed this. Penner explained that putting in all of this effort for Relay for Life means a lot to him.

“It just shows like the people that are willing to support [the fight against] cancer,” Penner said. “It shows that we actually really care for the school and care for this event.”

Aside from the funny activities, Relay for Life also hosts a survivor dinner and a luminaria ceremony to honor those affected by cancer. 

Melissa Barhorst, a team chaperone at the event, was proud of the students for all they were able to accomplish to honor cancer survivors.

“Everybody just works together to make this such a great event,” Barhorst said. “My mom comes every year for the survivor dinner and she’s just always so impressed.”


Evan LeRoy

Once the activities conclude with sunrise yoga, it is time for the Relay for Life sponsor and chairs to announce the final amount of money the students raised throughout the year. At this year’s event, that number was $77,101.

Raising that much money would not be possible without the school spirit present at Mill Valley, according to Jones.

“I think just the fact that we get to do this event and that it is student-led is something that any student should just be incredibly proud of for the rest of their life because it’s not necessarily a part of any high school experience,” Jones said. Also the fact that we’re consistently one of the top performing events throughout the entire country [is incredible.] It’s only large private schools that beat us. The fact that one school is able to raise so much money and put so much effort and care into such a huge important cause is really incredible and should make any student here feel like they could accomplish anything.”

Giving the big reveal, the Relay for Life leaders hold up posters indicating that Relay for Life raised $77,101 this year. (By Submitted by @jagrfl on Instagram)

For White, Relay for Life is such a successful event because so many students from so many different backgrounds show their school spirit by participating. According to White, the event has a unique ability to bring students together.

“There’s a ton of different people involved with it,” White said. “You’re always going to find someone who has similar interests to you. There’s people do sports or are in the arts and are still in [Relay for Life]. There’s always just something different to do.”

Strathman has seen this phenomenon in her own three children and their different connections to Relay for Life.

By Emma Clement

“There’s an outlet for everyone,” Strathman said. “[My oldest daughter] was able to do the graphics side of it and more of the organizational side. Whereas, [my second daughter] is able to run and do it with their friends. [My youngest daughter, who is in middle school,] obviously brings her friends to come and enjoy the games.”

Relay for Life also gives students like Moore an opportunity to show their school spirit by connecting with kids they’ve met through other Mill Valley programs. Moore is a cheer team captain so she has met many future Mill Valley students through cheer’s youth programs.

“[At Relay for Life] I wear colors and then I go around and I talk to little girls that have been on the Junior Jags cheer team,” Moore said.

The thing that ultimately makes all of the planning, preparation, time, effort and school spirit that goes into Relay for Life worth it is the final amount raised. Seeing everyone attend the event and donate money to reach the fundraising goal makes Walker feel connected to and proud of her school.

“Relay for Life is an event that a lot of people at Mill Valley attend,” Walker said. “I think just having a lot of people from Mill Valley in the same spot, raising money for a good cause just really brings everyone together and connects everyone.”

Relay Through The Years: Information about each Relay for Life since 2015-2016
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About the Contributors
Emma Clement
Emma Clement, JagWire editor-in-chief, Mill Valley News editor-in-chief
This is senior Emma Clement’s third year on the JagWire staff. This year she is JagWire and Mill Valley News editor-in-chief, in addition to being a writer and designer for the newspaper. When she is not working on journalism, Emma enjoys reading, drawing, painting, watching TV shows and spending time with friends and family. She is also involved at Mill Valley as NHS president, Spanish NHS vice president, Youth for Refugees president, Model UN president, NAHS vice president and is a member of NEHS, Scholar’s Bowl and Women’s Empowerment Club. Outside of school, Emma works at Pinnacle Gymnastics as a gymnastics coach and is on the editorial board for elementia, the Johnson County Library’s teen literary magazine.
Molly Griffin
Molly Griffin, JAG social media and managing editor
This is junior Molly Griffin's second year on the JAG yearbook staff and she will be taking on the position of co-social media and managing editor. When not in the C-101 you can find her participating in Relay for Life or at the MV softball field. Outside of school, you can find her playing on her club softball team, working at Pink Charming Boutique, or watching the sunset with her friends.
Avery Cole
Avery Cole, JAG social media and managing editor
This is junior Avery Cole’s second year on the JAG yearbook staff. This year she will be taking on the position of social media and managing editor. When not in C-101, you can find her participating in Relay For Life, NHS, and NEHS. Outside of school you can find her working at JCPRD at Clear Creek, spending time with friends and family, and watching movies. 
Evan LeRoy
Evan LeRoy, JagWire reporter/photographer
This is sophomore Evan LeRoy’s first year on the JagWire staff. Evan is a reporter for both the newspaper staff and for the broadcast staff. Outside of school Evan likes to perform, take walks and spend time preparing for his next performance. Evan is excited to learn all the skills he will need to do both print and video journalism. Evan is excited to be a part of both groups and is excited to tell all the important stories the people of Mill Valley need to know.

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