The Relay for Life is a fundraising and awareness event that happens all over the United States, Canada and other parts of the world. In fact, this event takes place in at least 20 countries. The dates vary throughout the year, but most take place in the spring. Whether cheering on survivors, walking the track, passing the baton to teammates or joining in trackside activities, Relay for Life is more than just a cancer walk. It is a journey.
While many societies conduct walks to raise money and awareness, Relay for Life has a slightly different take on the concept. Instead of participants walking together on a predetermined route as is the case with other walks, the participants in this event do their laps as individuals and then pass a baton to the next teammate in a symbolic gesture. The American Cancer Society has chosen three words to describe this yearly event:
Celebrate, Remember, Fight Back
The history of the event is a story in itself and can be summed up in the phrase, “One person can make a difference!” The Relay for Life originated from the American Cancer Society in the city of Tacoma, Washington under the name, “The City of Destiny Classic 24-hour Run Against Cancer.” Relay for Life started out with only one participant, a man named Dr. Gordy Klatt. In May 1985, Dr. Klatt ran laps for 24 hours straight at the Baker Stadium, the University of Puget Sound, clocking 83 miles. Friends and others contributed funds and some ran laps with him. This 24-hour run began the community fundraising extravaganza we know today, was born.
There are many ways to participate. One can register to walk alone or as part of a team, donate, purchase a luminary to be used in a memorial ceremony on the day, or sponsor an event at a local school. All these ways help to raise funds and awareness for this worthy cause. Individual or team registrants are encouraged to come up with creative, fun, and community building ways to raise money prior to the event. In fact, there are websites, such as Charity Love to Know, dedicated solely to creating ideas for innovative ways to generate donations for the cause.
There is great variety among the Relay for Life festivities, but one common thread and it is the slogan: “Celebrate, Remember, Fight Back!” At the start of every event, there is a lap walked by all called the “Survivors Lap.” Once darkness falls, there is the “Luminary Ceremony” where candles are placed in bags with the name of a victim who lost their battle to cancer, weighted down with sand. This usually includes one lap walked in silence. Last, the weekend culminates with the “Fight Back Ceremony.” As the weekend comes to a close, attendees are encouraged to ponder and commit to an action that helps fight the disease. It can be something simple and personal such as ceasing to smoke, exercising or more outward activities like volunteering for the cause.
Relay for Life is the season to celebrate, remember, and fight back with people across the globe for the cause to end cancer. Relay For Life is more than just a fundraiser, it is a life-changing experience. It might begin with a walk, but do not stop there; take the journey and go the distance.
By Cherese Jackson (Virginia)
Relay for Life: It’s A Journey Go the Distance
American Cancer Society: About Relay for Life
Bowling Green Daily News: Relay for Life trying to help find a cure
Top and Featured Images Courtesy of crmgucd – Flickr License
Inline Image Courtesy of USF SLE – Flickr License