UT students raised more than $68,000 to fund cancer research and support cancer survivors in Friday night's "Relay for Life."

The official total of $68,589 – which may continue to rise — outstretched last year's total of $65,000 and puts UT ahead of the current SEC fundraising leader, Auburn University.

As president of Relay for Life at UT, Drew Nash was proud of the Volunteer effort.

"I'm pleased this year because we were able to raise more money than last year and we had more participants," Nash, a junior in computer science, said. "I thought the involvement was phenomenal this year, I certainly hope to see it grow next year."

The announced goal of $75,000 was not reached, but Nash admitted that the Relay committee's actual goal was $70,000. Fundraising technically continues until September, and Nash is confident that more money will roll in.

The American Cancer Society began holding "Relay for Life" in some form or another in 1985. It symbolizes the fight of cancer patients against the deadly disease; volunteers continuously walk around a track all night in honor of the patients who fight a disease that never sleeps. Instead of slumber, participants are encouraged to practice solidarity with those they support.

“We also had teams that were walking all night, I think the idea of each team having a spirit stick and actually carrying it around the track meant something,” Nash said. “We had a lot of those still going at four in the morning.”

Scattered throughout Circle Park, the participants who were not walking the track perused booths from nearly 35 different student organizations. Each booth offered activities and snacks to continue raising money.

“We sold muffins,” Elizabeth Stanfield, a sister of Alpha Chi Omega who attended this year’s "Relay," said.

Although Stanfield said the muffin sales did not raise much, the Alpha Chi chapter alone raised nearly $11,000. Stanfield, a freshman in anthropology, geography, and ecology and evolutionary biology, was in charge of their chapter’s "Relay" team.

“A lot of it came down to me and my co-captain (Kellan Pearson) just reminding people and pushing them to call their friends, call their parents,” she said. “I called my parents and my parents’ friends and my aunts and uncles and grandparents. Most people … are pretty willing to donate to a cause like 'Relay for Life.'"

The Alpha Chi chapter was bested by UT’s Pi Beta Phi chapter, which raised nearly $13,000, but Stanfield said the fundraising was enjoyable no matter which student organization had the most success.

“I think a lot of people also had fun fundraising. I know for me it was a good chance to catch up with some people I hadn’t talked to in a while,” she said, adding that one of her sisters, Sarah Weinstein-Bacal, raised more than $1,000 on her own.

“I know she really enjoyed it,” Stanfield said.

Those interested in helping with next year’s "Relay for Life" should email relay@utk.edu.