One day. One night. By participating in an American Cancer Society Relay for Life event near you, you honor cancer survivors, pay tribute to the lives lost to the disease, and raise money to help fight it – all right in your community.
Nowhere is that more evident than in the mid-1980s when Dr. Gordy Klatt, a colorectal surgeon in Tacoma, Washington, ran and walked around a track for a grueling 24 hours circling the track at Baker Stadium at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma. Dr. Klatt walked and ran for more than 83 miles. Throughout the night, his friends paid $25 to run or walk 30 minutes with him. At the end 24 hours he had raised $27,000 to fight cancer. Nearly 300 of his friends, family and patients watched as he ran and walked the course. When Dr. Klatt circled the track during those 24 hours, he thought about how others could take part. He envisioned a 24-hour team relay event that could raise more money to fight cancer. Months later 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. Since that day Relay has grown from a single man's passion to fight cancer into the world's largest movement to end the disease. Each year, more than 3.5 million people in 5,000 communities in the United States along with additional communities in 20 other countries gather to take part in this global phenomenon and raise much-needed funds an awareness to save lives from cancer.
What happens at Relay For Life events?
At Relay, teams of family, friends, students and co-workers camp out at a local high school, park, or fairground and take turns walking or running around a track or path. Each team is asked to have a representative on the track at all times during the event. Teams set up campsites and enjoy walking to live entertainment, activities, and special ceremonies throughout the night. Because cancer never sleeps, Relays are overnight events up to 24 hours in length. Although every Relay for Life is different, there are certain traditions at all Relays, no matter where they are held. These traditions help participants celebrate, remember and fight back.
Celebrate – The Survivors Lap
Relay for Life opens as cancer survivors take the first lap – an inspirational time when survivors are invited to circle the track together with their caregiver and help everyone celebrate the victories they have achieved over cancer. This emotional time sets the stage for the importance of each participant's contribution. A festive atmosphere always develops as participants make new friends and spend time with old ones. The Survivor's Lap is an emotional example of how Relay participants are ensuring that more lives are saved each year – like those of each individual on the track. We also recognize and celebrate caregivers at Relay for Life. These individuals give their time, love, and support to friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers who face cancer. At Relay, people understand the frustrations and joys of being a caregiver, since the effects of cancer reach far beyond just the person diagnosed.
Remember – The Luminary Ceremony
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. As people take time to remember, those who have walked alongside others battling cancer can grieve and find healing. This is the time that truly highlights the importance of defeating this disease.
Fight Back – The 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 away so much. Celebrate, remember, and fight back are themes that link all Relay events together.
Relay for Life of Berlin-Gorham 2015 will be held on June 12 – 13 on the Gorham Common. The opening ceremonies will take place at 6 p.m. followed by the survivor's lap and reception. The theme for this year's Relay for Life is "A Patriotic Celebration". There will be fun and games for everyone and a live auction and talent show at the gazebo with live entertainment throughout the event. If you have never been to a Relay for Life we invite you to come and join us for an evening of celebration of life and fun.
Sandy Lemire is the Survivorship Recruitment Chair of the Berlin-Gorham Relay for Life.