As told by 2018-2019 Executive Director, Iliana Ioannides of James Madison University located in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Interviewed by K.C. Ward, Mission Chair of the National Campus Leadership Team.

Goal:$300,000 and hit their goal before their main event started. Ending with a gross income of $328,823.81 

Even through social media, I could tell the energy of this year was just special at JMU. What was different this year from years past? 

The way they say, “the key to reaching your goal is having a strong fall”, and we did. We had an incredible fall. Our momentum kept building from this and we ended up being ahead from the start. When we were able to see how far ahead we were from the year before, it gave us energy and made us even more excited. We knew if we kept pushing, that we could really do something historic on our campus. 

Survivor lap at jmu’s relay for life

Survivor lap at jmu’s relay for life

What advice do you have for other campus or community events that are looking to crush their goals?

For the first time ever, we decided not to have a theme for our event. We decided to focus on personal outreach this year. We especially focused on this the month before our Relay event. We texted in mass numbers, individually, different types of people. This included separate groups of fundraising levels brackets, and letting them know how much time and how close they were to reaching the $200 food pass, $100 Hope Club, or if they raised $40, where that money would go, etc. I think this really made our numbers jump. This was the first year ever we hit our goal before the main event, and I think we can really attribute that to our personal outreach. It was a lot of work, but it paid off. 

In all of your planning, how did you spread the mission? 

Our goal is always to lead with the mission, even when that gets hard. We tried to create content that people could really visualize. During the Fund The Mission fundraising challenge, we created our own challenge within the challenge by making our goal to fund 5 years of stay at the Hope Lodge. On social media, we publicized what a Hope Lodge was, how does it work, and really capitalized on creating a tangible mission aspect of the fundraising challenge. 

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Can you tell us about your Honor Wall at your main event, and how that gets people involved in the mission at your event? 

Yes! The Honor Wall came in two forms this year. Typically, the Honor Wall is a part of the indoor section of our event, where people can submit pictures of their loved ones and we hang the picture on a wall. It is really great for visualizing the impact of cancer on our community. This year, the University decided to do construction on the field we hold our Relay event on, so there was a big fence in the middle of the field. We decided to use this to our advantage rather than an obstacle. We ended up covering the fence with sheets where people could sign the sheet with names, why they relay, and leave handprints for survivors and caregivers. It was a great visual representation. 

Did you bring anything new to your ceremonies, scripts, etc? 

We like to keep the basic structure consistent, however we did try something new! It may not seem like that big of a difference. Usually during the luminaria ceremony we have people stand behind their bags and listen to the speaker, however this year we had people come and surround the stage and listen to the speaker, and then go to their bags. This really helped with creating community and made the ceremony a lot better. 

Our event starts at 6 P.M., and this year we arranged opening ceremonies differently. We usually have the opening ceremonies begin at 6 P.M., however this year we had our entertainment chairs speak about the schedule of the night, and had a band play for 30 minutes while everyone got settled on the field. We had our opening ceremonies following the band’s performance, people were now tuned into the event and ready for opening ceremonies. 

What makes JMU Relay special? 

I think that’s hard. Our event has really become a staple event at JMU, and that is really neat to see. It’s just something we do here at JMU.