Cancer survivors bring strength, hope to others
■ By Melissa Diaz Hernandez / Reporter
Relay for Life’s opening ceremony June 10 at the track of San Jacinto High School was one of strength, perseverance, celebration and hope. It brought together a crowd of all ages and backgrounds. Communities like our valley come together every year at more than 3,500 Relay events around the country to support the American Cancer Society and celebrate cancer survivors and those who cared for them during their illness and recovery.
After the opening ceremony, an emotional first two laps were taken.
Survivors claimed the track for the first lap, and their caretakers joined them during the second lap. Hemet Mayor Linda Krupa stood by and cheered on the survivors, then the survivors with their caretakers. Krupa has lost several family members to cancer – one very recently.
Sundae Sayles, legislative assistant to Third District County Supervisor Chuck Washington, joined in the first lap with survivors. Sayles, a nine-year cancer survivor, spoke with elegance and enthusiasm as she described her own battle with cancer.
“I want to applaud and congratulate [the survivors]. I do that to myself every year on my anniversary,” said Sayles. “When I was going through the time of cancer, it was the American Cancer Society that was there for me.”
The team captains and relay volunteers were brought up for recognition, drawing massive support and applause from the audience.
Mayor Krupa thanked Relay for Life volunteers and participants for their dedication.
“This is a disease that strikes anyone at any time. Relay for Life is hope,” said Krupa. “So, thank you, thank you for being here. Keep dedicating your lives to beating this terrible, terrible disease.”
Relay for Life is the signature fundraiser for the American Cancer Society and is staffed and coordinated by volunteers in more than 5,200 communities and 27 countries. According to their website, cancer patients don’t stop because they’re tired, and for one night, neither do the people who participate in the relay.
Here’s how it works: Relay for Life is a team fundraising event where team members take turns walking around a track or designated path. Each event is six to 24 hours in length and each team is asked to have a member on the track at all times to signify that cancer never sleeps.
Each team sets up a themed campsite at the event and continues their fundraising efforts by collecting donations for food, goods, games and activities. This money will count toward their overall team fundraising goal.
Some of the programs and services American Cancer Society funds are breast cancer support, TLC hair loss and mastectomy products, Hope Lodge® lodging, rides to treatment, and online support communities.
The History of Relay for Life
In May 1985, according to the American Cancer Society’s website, Dr. Gordon “Gordy” Klatt walked and ran for 24 hours around a track in Tacoma, Washington, raising money to help the American Cancer Society with the nation’s biggest health concern: cancer.
Klatt spent a grueling 24 hours circling the track at the University of Puget Sound. Friends, family, and patients watched and supported him as he walked and ran more than 83.6 miles and raised $27,000 through pledges to help save lives from cancer. As he circled the track, he thought of how he could get others to take part. He envisioned having teams participate in a 24-hour fundraising event. The next year, 19 teams were part of the first Relay at the historical Stadium Bowl that raised $33,000.
Klatt passed away Aug. 3, 2014, at the age of 71 from heart failure after battling stomach cancer, but his legacy lives on. He helped shape an idea that started as one man walking and running a track and helped turn it into a global event, raising more than $5 billion to help save lives throughout the world.
According to the American Cancer Society, cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States. About one-half of all men and one-third of all women in the U.S. will develop cancer during their lifetimes. Today, millions of people are living with cancer or have had cancer.
During the 1970s, about half of the people diagnosed with cancer survived at least five years. Now, more than two-thirds survive that long. Today there are more than 14 million cancer survivors in the United States alone.