For one night last week, cancer didn’t stand a chance—at least not in the eyes of nearly 800 NAU students who raised more than $45,000 toward efforts they hope will one day eliminate the disease.

The students were participating in the American Cancer Society’s annual Relay for Life, an all-night gathering where participants come together to raise money to support cancer research, education and advocacy, while celebrating cancer survivors and remembering those who have lost their lives to the disease.

Throughout the evening of April 18 and well into the next morning, 84 campus teams took turns continuously walking or running laps at the NAU Fieldhouse, representing the difficulty cancer victims face in their daily struggle against the disease and the fact that cancer never sleeps, said Allisyn Alati, senior psychology major and chair of the committee that organized the event.

A closing ceremony is planned for 2 p.m. Friday, April 25, in The W.A. Franke College of Business Gardner Auditorium, where students will present their funds to the American Cancer Society and be recognized for their efforts.

Like most people at NAU’s Relay for Life, Alati was compelled to participate because her life has been personally touched by the disease.

“My grandmother passed away from lung cancer in 1998 and she lived with us during the last part of her life,” she said. “It was so difficult watching her suffer from the pain. It’s important for me to keep working hard toward this effort so other people don’t have to experience the same kind of things.”

Students spent months planning and fundraising for the event, which included a number of activities that honored cancer survivors while also paying tribute to those who have lost their lives to it. One of the most reflective moments of the night was the Survivors’ Lap, when 42 cancer survivors walked a victory lap around the track and were invited to share their personal stories.

“It was a very powerful way to start the event,” Alati said. “We all lined the track and cheered for them. It was very moving to honor those who fought hard to overcome the disease and who are living proof that we can survive it.”

Though it was an emotional reminder of her family’s experience with the disease, Alati said the event makes her want to keep working hard toward a cure for cancer so others won’t have to fight it in the future.

“Relay for Life is the most heartwarming, uplifting and gratifying event I have ever participated in,” she said.

Information about NAU’s Relay for Life is online.