Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The 2013 Relay Weekend

By Bixyl Shuftan

Saturday July 13th to Sunday July 14th marked the high point of the Relay For Life's fundraising season: the Relay Weekend. Across the forty-some sims of the Relay track, hundreds of avatars walked, occasionally stopping at the dozens of exhibits made in the teams' camps. Numerous smaller events took place, both in and out of the Relay sims. Like other Relays, it was a time to both have fun and celebrate successes, in addition to reflecting on friends whom were lost. For this ninth Relay, some milestones were set, including one fundraising goal for the Relay as a whole.

At 10AM SL time, the Opening Ceremonies took place at the meeting point of the four RFL Activities sims. People were dropping in before the event, and for good reason. More than 150 residents appeared at the building there, noted for it's towering upside-down "Y" shaped structure of glass on top, which lit up when peoples' viewers were at Midnight. And with all the residents present, came the inevitable lag, which meant for most the screen was filled with clouds, gray avatars, and the occasional mesh glitch for a while.

Seated in the center were the Relay Committee. They thanked the various teams for their efforts at raising funds, and individuals for their teamwork. They touted Second Life as a means for people to get together, dismissing those who see the Internet as a land of deception. Then described how it could be used for a cause, the fight against cancer. Then some inspirational speeches were made, which at times brought some residents to cry, "Oh my God, this woman has me in tears." Following that a list of the Relay teams was read out. At the end, the Committee gave the all clear to head to the track, "Now let's go Relay!" The crowd erupted in cheers, as the radio switched to Elton John's song "Still Standing."

The first themed lap was the "Survivor/ Caregiver" lap. So for the majority of us, we sat at our camps, or someone else's. At the Sunbeamer camp, teammates and friends of began arriving, including a few whom had recently joined the team roster.   Team Captain Rita Mariner showed up in a ratgirl avatar instead of her normal purplish bunny. As one of the Sunbeamer's final events, she got into a "Bid Me" event, in which the kiosk with the most donated to would decide her appearance for the next week. One was a "Bid Rita Pink," a color she normally disliked wearing. The winning kiosk instead had her changing to a rodent form with a long pinkish tail and buck teeth, with long hair and the team's yellow uniform.

One recent change in Second Life got some talk among the Relayers, "Project Sunshine." This effort by Linden Lab to upgrade the Grid meant that those with older viewers would have more problems seeing the details of other avatars, as well as appearing gray to others as well. And as the avatars went down the track, most appeared gray, getting color only if they paused or had passed the camp.

"Did Linden Lab *have* to release that just before the Relay?" I heard from more than one Relayer. While Relayers often say the lag gets worse every year, it's usually spoke as a joke. This time, however, some people were wondering. Others just felt lag was an inevitable part of large events, and the only thing that could be done was deal with it the best we could. This meant taking down HUDs, such as "Tiny Empires," and other scripted items, as well as skipping sims on the track which were closed to further traffic, crowded, or crashed.

At 12:30, the time for the "Teams' Lap" was on, and I joined the Sunbeamer team, led by its captain Rita Mariner as it went down the track. Some of us were wearing a shirt designed by Becky "Sha" Shamen, "I do believe in serving others and when I learned that Sunbeamers needed clothing, I was happy to help them, for free." In the Sunbeamer package, there was her shirt, a bikini top, a few flags, and separate jackets for males and females made by a Mr. Allen. So we went down the track. Despite that many of us had the "Walk and Talk" tear-shaped backpacks, so named as people could continue to chat while they allowed one to walk automatically, we inevitably became separated due to the lag. And the walker wasn't quite perfect as at one point it stopped following the person in front of me, and instead steered right into the Goreans for Life camp and into it's team.

The way the Relay sims are set up, a sim can only have so much traffic before it is "closed" and appears to those outside as just water. This happened a number at times, and the result was a "pile up" of avatars at sim borders on the track. Some just waited for it to reopen while others skipped ahead to the next one. A few sims crashed and were outright offline from the Grid. Fortunetly, a few Lindens were around to remedy these problems. And with the lag, residents were crashing quite a bit. One Relayer jokingly called it, "Crash For Life."

But the reasons for the lag were that so many friends were around, and others joining in the Relay's cause. So few complained much.

After the Teams Lap, the theme of the track changed to Western. So I switched to a set of cowboy duds. As the hour ran down, I heard about some Giant Snail Races that would be taking place at the RFL Activities 3 sim. So I headed there. There, RacerX Gullwing invited people to join the race, and with just a handful present, for once I went ahead and joined in the event, saying ahead of time I would probably come in last.

The first race were for the "Tiny Giant Snails," and I stood out with my freebie red one that I had picked up. I had a bit of a slow start due to forgetting to press the "always run" option for my viewer.While going on, there was a slingshot that allowed one to zip ahead if stepped into right, as well as obstacles like bouncy mushrooms and a twisty maze. I got lost in the maze, and ended up coming in last place.

Second race, it was time for the standard Giant Snails. I had an old one, so got that out. It certainly wasn't as dressed up as those of the girls who regularly raced. It took a little getting used to. To those watching, the giant snails were an amusing sight as they waddled around as they raced, spewing bubbles from their mouths. "Tiny giants" just zipped down the track. Not surprisingly, I came in last place again.

Third race, I ended up briefly in the lead, though later heard when seeing the recording of the event that I had accidentally cut through the end of a maze hedge, "Has the fox traded in his fedora for a top hat and twirly mustache?" This time however, I went through the maze somehow avoiding a single wrong turn. I came in second to last place this time. RacerX thanked everyone, and told us we'd each get a trophy later on for participating.

After that, I went back to my fox look and went on the track for a while longer, through the "Fabulous Fifties" lap. At 6PM, many Sunbeamers headed to their home community's Cutlass Club for it's Saturday party instead of taking part in the "Beach Party" Relay lap. The theme was "Relay Pink," so not all of the males present entered. The girls' contest got a few more entries. Club owner Jenni Greenfield was dressed up as a white bunnygirl dressed in pink with a pink beret, a look inspired by the Easter movie "Hop."

At 7PM was the musicians lap, and at 8PM many residents went chrome dome for the "bald is beautiful" lap. At 9PM was a special hour, the Luminaria Ceremony. All chat out in the open ceased, and the track went Midnight dark, the luminaries lighting up the path. Many instead of walking sat at their camps, reflecting on family, or friends, whom had lost their struggle with cancer.

Following Midnight, more Relayers began heading to bed for a few hours rest. On Sunday Morning, I was going to be the one interviewed for a change. Pooky Amsterdam had been talking to various relayers for SL TV, and I was going to get a chance. Techhnical difficulties at my end however postponed the interview for an hour. Pooky herself took on a vixen look for the interviewing. But then my inexperience with Skype began causing problems, and the interview was changed to her describing the Sunbeamer campsite. Oh well, there's always next year.

I would see a few more exhibits Sunday morning. Among those was the Steelhead Salmons' camp. This one had piles of books, and had the words "Knowledge is Power." Fuzzball Ortega was there in a Relay shirt, and at one point his adopted girl Mindy came over from a short break from summer camp. The Steelhead camp had a number of features inward that I had yet to look at before heading on, including what looked like a small Emerald City. It also had a box with the team shirts, team flags, and Steelheader Baron Wulfenback's own flag.

At 9AM was the formal hour, and at 10AM were the Closing Ceremonies. Once again, people gathered at the RFL Activities Center. The Relay Committee once again thanked everyone, and gave out various awards. DrFran's team tied for second place for the Cancer Education Awareness Award and came in third for the Best Theme-Decorated Campsite Award. First place for the Designer Sim Award was Ub Yifu's RFL Imagine and Journey.

There were speeches given, among them a funny one by "Stinky the Skunk," or rather someone speaking in his behalf with a "speeded up" voice ala "Alvin and the Chipmunks." There was also a serious one by Stingray, "The Empty Table."

"We call your attention to the small table that occupies a place of dignity and honor. It is set for one, symbolizing the fact that some of our loved ones are missing from this gathering. They have been diagnosed with cancer, and they are some of the names and faces behind luminaries. The chair is empty. Many of those who fought the battle with cancer are no longer with us, but rather than mourning their loss, we choose to celebrate their life. These people are unable to be with their loved ones and families now, so let us join together to recognize and honor them, and to bear witness to their struggle and their memory. … "

The speech went on, concluding with, "But, the candle represents the light of hope that lives in the hearts of all of us -- hope represented by cancer survivors and the hope for a cure discovered as a result of the detailed work of the medical profession made able through funds generated through events such as Relay For Life."

During the Closing Ceremonies, a special announcement was made. Since reaching the million US dollar mark of the total amount raised in their history, the Relay For Life in Second Life made it their goal to raise another. The Committee announced that milestone had been passed. The result was cheers from the audience in the form of sound effects and chat gestures that filled the screen, in addition to the "Yahoo!"s and "Yayyyy!"s typed. Outside the center, fireworks were launched into the sky, coloring it with streaks of light.

"Thank you for joining in this fight."

Following the Closing Ceremony, people went back on the track for the "Victory Lap," as well as seeing what exhibits they missed. People also went to various events across the track. At Trader Whiplash's T-1 Radio's location was one of the larger parties, the "I Don't Want to Go Home Party." There, a few dozen avatars whooped it up to the music. There were some team leaders there such as Fuzzball Ortega of the Steelhead Salmons and a number of other personalities there, such as DJ Madonna noted for her latex outfits.  And Aryon Dagger, whom at one point donned an R2-D2 avatar, "Oh great, now we'll have to start bleeping out everything she says."

At one point during the party, Trader began cracking "Skunknado" jokes, a reference to a very bad flick about a tornado of sharks. Well, before long me and a couple furry friends decided to get into the act by changing into our skunk avatars. It might not have been a "skunknado," but the others in the dance cheered.

That would be the last event I was in that day. Eventually, the party ended, and we either logged off, or went back to exploring the track. Part of the time was spent welcoming back one  Second Life resident whom hadn't been online in a few years, busy with both his military career and family. Needless to say, there were a lot of changes since he had last been on. He eventually had to go, and it was later on that my Relay Weekend came to a close somewhere on the track while exploring.

There were a very few residents in Second Life who did not share my enthusiasm for the Relay. These people felt the cure to all cancer already existed, but the powers-that-be were keeping it to themselves, either to squeeze money from the masses, or as part of some scheme to keep them dependent. But if this were true, why do the rich and powerful also get sick and die from cancer?

But more importantly, many of my friends and neighbors whom had been with the Redheads were either too sick or otherwise held up by real life matters to attend, or just plain burned out. The team had crashed hard, and some former members were still smarting. Perhaps next year they'll be ready to Relay with the Sunbeamers. But other neighbors joined me on the track, so I was far from alone.

The camps will be up for a few more days. The sims last until Saturday, and the builders were asked to clean up then or Friday. One might want to explore early if possible as a few builders like to pick up their exhibits early.

Already, the Relayers are talking about plans for next year. There's talk of a "Team Stinky" in honor of Stinky the Skunk. And next month more awards will be given out. at the "Wrap-Up" Party in August, including the "Spirit of Relay" awards for the most noted team and individual.

It was an exciting Relay Weekend.

"Go Relay!"

First two images from DrFran Babcock

Bixyl Shuftan

1 comment:

  1. It was a good relay, and I'm proud as always to have been a part of it.