This time of year we see remarkable efforts by those dedicated Relay for Life volunteers who raise huge sums of money for cancer research. The East Lincoln Relay for Life initially reported collections of more than $170,000 after completing the event April 2. The Lincolnton Relay will be held May 7-8 at Lincolnton High School and is expected to add another $100,000 to a county effort that usually ranks in the top five nationally in its population category. These events are also staged all across North Carolina and the nation.
Relay for Life is a lot of fun and provides a unique opportunity for friends and relatives of those afflicted by cancer to show their support. It is put on by volunteers from schools, churches, organizations and businesses that team up to hold fund raising events and solicit pledges. On relay weekend the teams set up a campsite and dispatch walkers who take turns lapping the track. The event also features a survivors lap and the lighting of luminaries honoring those who have battled cancer.
The popularity of these events grows from the fact that so many people have friends or relatives afflicted by cancer. Today, there are more survivors than ever, thanks to new treatments that are prolonging lives. Those treatments are coming about because of the ground-breaking research funded by contributions from the American Cancer Society, and those volunteers walking the laps at our high schools.
It all started with a single person who cared. In the mid-1980s, Dr. Gordy Klatt, a Tacoma colorectal surgeon, wanted to raise more money for his local American Cancer Society office. He decided to personally raise money for the fight by doing something he enjoyedâ€”running marathons.
In May 1985, Dr. Klatt spent 24 hours circling the track at Baker Stadium at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma for more than 83 miles. Throughout the night, friends paid $25 to run or walk 30 minutes with him. He raised $27,000 to fight cancer. That first year, nearly 300 of Dr. Klattâ€™s friends, family, and patients watched as he ran and walked the course.
While he circled the track he thought about how others could take part. He envisioned a 24-hour team relay event that could raise more money to fight cancer. That later evolved into the Relay for Life, now celebrated with such success in Lincoln County and all across the nation.