The Relay for Life, which has been the American Cancer Society's signature fund-raising event since 1996, began 20 years ago in Tacoma, Wash., as the City of Destiny Classic 24-Hour Run Against Cancer.
Dr. Gordy Klatt, a Tacoma colorectal surgeon, wanted to generate additional revenue for his local ACS office. Beginning in the mid-1980s, he personally started raising dollars by doing something he enjoyed -- running marathons.
In May 1985, Klatt spent 24 hours logging more than 83 miles on the track at Baker Stadium at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma. Friends paid $25 to run or walk 30 minutes with him in an effort that raised $27,000 to fight cancer. Nearly 300 of the surgeon's family, friends and patients came to watch. He encouraged others to join him the following year and 19 teams responded bringing in $33,000.
In 2004, a total of $306 million was raised nationally through 4,000 relays. The 2005 schedule includes 500 additional relays.
Shirley James, chairman for the Southwestern Auglaize County Relay for Life, points out more than 9 million survivors have participated in the national events over the course of two decades. Approximately $1.5 billion have been raised in the process. Relay for Life has spread beyond the United States, becoming a worldwide movement aimed at ending cancer in nine other countries.
-- Margie Wuebker