An annual event that has become an integral part of communities across America began in 1985 with the vision and mission of one man; Dr. Gordy Klatt of Tacoma, Washington. Now sponsored by the American Cancer Society, Relay for Life events essentially celebrate life … with all its trials, tribulations and victories.
The event has become symbolic of how one person really can make a difference; in their own life or in the lives of others. Cancers survivors are a tenacious bunch and those who support them have remained determined to “Fight Back” against the disease with love and money.
This year’s Relay for Life for Chesterfield County was held last weekend at the Chesterfield High School football stadium.
If you’ve never been to one of these events the following excerpts from the Relay for Life website may enlighten and encourage you attend next year.
In the mid-1980s, Dr. Gordy Klatt, a Tacoma colorectal surgeon, wanted to enhance the income of his local American Cancer Society office and to show support for all of his patients who had battled cancer. He decided to personally raise money for the fight by doing something he enjoyed – running marathons.
In May 1985, Dr. Klatt spent a grueling 24 hours circling the track at Baker Stadium at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma. He ran for more than 83 miles. That first year, nearly 300 of Dr. Klatt’s friends, family, and patients watched as he ran and walked the course. Throughout the night, friends donated $25 to run or walk with Dr. Klatt for 30 minutes. His efforts raised $27,000 to fight cancer.
While circling the track those 24 hours, Dr. Klatt thought about how others could take part in his mission to fight cancer. He envisioned a 24-hour team relay event that could raise more money to fight cancer. Over the next few months, he pulled together a small committee to plan the first team relay event, known as the City of Destiny Classic 24-Hour Run Against Cancer.
In 1986, with the help of Pat Flynn — now known as the “Mother of Relay” — 19 teams took part in the first team Relay event on the track at the historic Stadium Bowl and raised $33,000. An indescribable spirit prevailed at the track and in the tents that dotted the infield.
Relay starts with a Survivors Lap — an inspirational time when survivors are invited to circle the track together and help everyone celebrate the victories we’ve achieved over cancer. We also recognize and celebrate caregivers at Relay For Life. These individuals give their time, love, and support to friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers who face cancer.
After dark, we honor people who have been touched by cancer and remember loved ones lost to the disease during the Luminaria Ceremony. Candles are lit inside bags filled with sand, each one bearing the name of a person touched by cancer, and participants often walk a lap in silence.
Fight Back Ceremony
Last, there is a Fight Back Ceremony, where we make a personal commitment to save lives by taking up the fight against cancer. That personal commitment may be to do something as simple as getting a screening test, quitting smoking, or talking to elected officials about cancer. By taking action, people are personally taking steps to save lives and fight back against a disease that takes too much.