At Relay for Life, survivors and families rally around the hope that all cancers will be cured.

By Gwen Rollings

Do you ever wonder if only one person can make any difference in the fight against cancer? In 1985, Dr. Gordy Klatt, a Tacoma, Washington surgeon, ran more than 83 miles around the University of Puget Sound track for 24 hours and raised $27,000 for his local American Cancer Society. In the following year, 220 people from 19 teams joined him, and a worldwide phenomenon was born.

In 1994, Relay for Life became the American Cancer Society’s signature event. Fast forward over 30 years and now the Relay for Life movement raises more than $400 million each year, and more than 5,000 Relay for Life events take place in over 20 countries. This is a monumental accomplishment, but it still begins with one person, one team, one community for one purpose: to attack and defeat cancer.

According to Tammy Schoonover, senior community development manager in Tampa, “The American Cancer Society puts these donations to work, investing in groundbreaking research in every type of cancer and providing free information and services to cancer patients and their caregivers.”

Relay for Life events will begin here soon, and maybe you’ve thought about getting involved. Each person matters and has a part in not only helping to raise donations and awareness for cancer research but equally to celebrate cancer survivors, their caretakers and to show support for everyone whose life has been touched in some way by this devastating disease.

The event lasts an entire day to recognize that when someone has cancer, it does not stop; the disease is present around the clock. To participate for 24 hours, teams camp overnight and participants take turns running or walking laps normally around a local athletic track. You can find a local team to join or create your own.

Relay events take place in cities and small towns worldwide usually in this order: pre-fundraising, meeting with your team, opening ceremony, survivor and caregiver laps, time to celebrate, lighting the luminaries and then the closing ceremony.

Check out one of these local Relay for Life events to participate in: SouthShore at Lennard High School on Friday and Saturday, March 27 and 28, Sun City Center at the Freedom Plaza on Thursday, April 2 and at Riverview High School on Saturday, April 4.

You can register and connect with a local team through www.relayforlife.org.