Relay for Life enters its 20th year in Crow Wing County of remembering those who lost the battle with cancer, celebrating survivors and renewing the fight against the disease.
It’s an event that doesn’t single out any particular form of cancer but embraces all who have been affected by the disease in whatever form it takes.
From noon to midnight July 21 at Don Adamson Field by the Brainerd High School people will again take part in donating hours of their time to signal their commitment to friends, family or community.
The American Cancer Society reports more than 3.5 million Relay for Life supporters will take part in events this summer, including 38,000 Minnesotans.
Luminary bags highlight the lives snuffed out prematurely by cancer.
Relay for Life began in Tacoma, Wash., as a 24-hour run against cancer. The idea was for 24 hours people would continue to bring awareness and raise funds to fight cancer noting the disease wasn’t taking a break for sleep either.
In Brainerd, the event was altered to begin at noon and end at midnight to encourage even greater participation. Volunteers assist with education and with games and entertainment.
There is no charge to attend.
Relay for Life reports “after dark, we honor people who have been touched by cancer and remember loved ones lost during the luminaria ceremony. Candles are lit inside bags filled with sand, each one bearing the name of a person touched by cancer.”
People may camp around the track with team members taking turn walking around the track for the duration of the relay.
The event 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. “It’s an emotional example of how relayers are ensuring that more lives are saved each year,” Relay for Life reports.
“The fight back ceremony is where we make a personal commitment to save lives by pledging to do something simple. By taking action, you are personally taking steps to save lives,” Relay for Life organization states on its website.
For those new to the event, the organization describes it as a “life-changing event that helps communities across the globe celebrate the lives of people who have battled cancer, remember loved ones lost, and fight back against the disease.”
How did it all start?
“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,” Relay for Life details in its history of the event. “He decided to personally raise money for the fight by doing something he enjoyed – running marathons.
“In May 1985, 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 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 Klatt for 30 minutes. His efforts raised $27,000 to fight cancer.
“While circling the track those 24 hours, 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.”
Where does the money go? Funds go to help the American Cancer Society. The society’s efforts include the Cancer Survivor College Scholarship Program, which was established in 2000 to provide assistance for young cancer patients and survivors as they look at higher education from an accredited school.
Other areas include the Reach to Recovery program, which matches volunteers with those who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. There are sessions bringing trained cosmetologists who volunteer to work with women coping with changes in their skin and with hair loss after cancer treatments. The Road to Recovery program provides drivers and rides for patients who have no other way to get to their cancer treatments. The Hope Lodge gives cancer patients and their caregivers a place to stay. There are 31 Hope Lodges in the U.S. The American Cancer Society reports: “No matter why you take part in Relay, however, one thing is clear: with every step you take, you are helping the American Cancer Society save lives.”