Relay for Life returns to Rockwall County April 25

ROCKWALL COUNTY (February 2, 2014) Celebrate.  Remember.  Fight back.  That is the motto of the American Cancer Society’s nationwide event, Relay For Life – a life-changing fundraiser that brings together more than 3.5 million people every year to celebrate the lives of those who have battled cancer, remember loved ones lost, and empower individuals and communities to fight back against a disease that takes so much.

Relay For Life began in May 1985 when Gordon Klatt M.D. took the first step of his 24-hour marathon around a Tacoma,Washington track and raised $27,000 for the American Cancer Society.  The following year, 340 supporters joined Dr. Klatt in this overnight event, and Relay For Life was born. Relay was originally created as a 24-hour event, because cancer never sleeps, and cancer patients battle the disease 24 hours a day.


Honoring cancer survivors is an essential part of Relay.  Survivors kick off the event by walking the very first lap, as a symbol of their courage and in celebration of their survivorship.


After nightfall, hundreds of luminaria candles, dedicated to loved ones, line the track and are left burning throughout the night to remind participants of the incredible importance of their contributions.

The Luminaria Ceremony is often called the Ceremony of Hope.  It is a time for participants to remember those who have been lost to cancer, to support those who currently have cancer, and to honor those who have fought cancer in the past.  By lining the walking path with luminaria bags, this ceremony provides an opportunity for people to work through their grief and find hope.

The Luminaria Ceremony originated in 1987 when Seattle was preparing for their first Relay For Life.  They had arranged for lighting at the event site but discovered on the day of the event that the lights wouldn’t work.  One of the members suggested lining the track with luminaria bags to enable the participants to see the track as they walked or ran.  The committee immediately purchased what they needed to implement the luminaria light idea.  When they lit the candles in the bags that night, it changed the atmosphere at the track.  The soft lighting was conducive to talking about why everyone was there—to fight cancer and to honor those who had survived and those who had lost the battle.  The ceremony grew in popularity and eventually become part of Relay For Life events across the country.


During Relay, teams of 8-15 people walk the track in shifts with the goal to have someone on the track at all times during the overnight event.  Team members seek sponsors who will donate money to the American Cancer Society.  Every dollar raised goes toward fighting cancer.  Contributions to the Relay help the American Cancer Society fight cancer in four main ways:  research, education, advocacy, and patient services.  The American Cancer Society funds more the $120 million of cancer research a year.  Contributions to Relay have funded:

  • Forty researchers who have gone on to win the Nobel Prize, the highest accolade of scientific achievement
  • Supported more than 20,00 grants over 60 years
  • Developed the bone marrow transplant
  • Discovered the breast cancer gene
  • Discovered the cure for childhood leukemia
  • Identified smoking as the cause of lung cancer
  • Developed the use of Tamoxifen to reduce the risk of  breast cancer
  • Developed monoclonal antibodies to treat breast cancer and lymphoma

In addition, The American Cancer Society provides a toll-free number which is a resource for lifesaving cancer information and services through 1-800-ACS-2345, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Millions of visitors click on each year to access clinical trial information, the latest updates and news on cancer, listings of local programs and services, and information in languages such as Spanish and Chinese.  They sponsor the Great American Smokeout and Quitline, a confidential, free telephone counseling service, which is available at 1-800-ACS-2345 to help tobacco users kick the habit.


Friday, April 25, 2014

7 p.m., Cain Middle School

6620 Fm 3097, Rockwall

Visit for information about how you can get involved.

Story and photo submitted by Mary Thacker.

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