On an overcast morning on the athletic field of Crozier Middle School, teams of residents, city employees, families and friends, set up tents, tables, chairs, and banners, and laced up their walking shoes for the City of Inglewood’s 2015 Relay For Life. The fundraising campaign is designed to help raise awareness and eradicate cancer.
It is said that, “One person can make a difference.” Nowhere is that more evident than with the story of the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life, which began in Tacoma, Washington, as the City of Destiny Classic 24-Hour Run Against Cancer.
In the mid-1980s, Dr. Gordy Klatt, a Tacoma colorectal surgeon, wanted to enhance the income of his local American Cancer Society office. He decided to personally raise money for the fight by doing something he enjoyed—running marathons.
In May 1985, Dr. Klatt spent a grueling 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. Klatt's friends, family, and patients watched as he ran and walked the course.
District 2 Councilman Alex Padilla added, “Cancer impacts us all, and it’s up to all of us to get together, as a community to eradicate cancer. I’m out here today to help fight cancer on behalf of my wife Stella who’s a cancer survivor as well as my brother Miguel, who’s also a cancer survivor. So we need to be out here to recognize and support those who are fighting cancer.”
As the survivors took their inaugural Survivor’s Lap, leading the charge in pink boxing gloves was 10-year cancer survivor and District 4 Councilman, Ralph Franklin who made his way around the track throwing jabs and hooks symbolizing his victory over the deadly disease. “I’m here to fight for cancer, thanks to being involved with Boy Scouts, I was early detected for bladder cancer, normally it’s fatal. To God be the glory! I’m here to celebrate and continue the fight.”
For the remainder of the day, people from all parts of the community and other parts of the county made their way around the Crozier Middle School field in support of the Inglewood Relay. Kids played games, checkers, jinga, hoola hoop, and got their faces painted. Community organizations distributed educational material to the community, and as the evening began to wind down, the chill of the evening started to set in. The sweaters and coats came out, but the track remained occupied.
The luminaria ceremony is the time of the event where participants honor people who have been touched by cancer and remember loved ones lost to the disease. Candles were lit inside bags filled with sand, each one bearing the name of a person touched by cancer. The ceremony was blessed with spoken word poetry, a live saxophone performance, following a silent lap lead by a bagpipe artist. As participants often walked the lap in silence, time was taken to remember, grieve, and find healing.
As the day broke and the sun hid behind the clouds, the remaining teams gathered around as Sabrina Barnes announced the City’s fundraising totals. “Today, our total before we receive our last few checks that are out is $44,328! If you’ve been relaying with us over the last few years you know that we’ve come a mighty long way. Two years ago, we barely cracked $20,000.”
Today, The American Cancer Society Relay For Life is an international movement to end cancer. Since 1996, the Society has partnered with multiple cancer organizations in countries outside the United States to license and support Relay For Life programs. Relay has proven especially important to countries at the beginning stages of educating both the public and health care communities about this deadly and often preventable disease.