2012-05-17 / Opinion

Why the Relay For Life lasts all night

Have you ever wondered why the American Cancer Society Relay for Life is all night long? A simple answer is that cancer never sleeps. Daylight, darkness and the dawn coincides with the physical and emotional journey each cancer patient faces.

Twenty seven years ago a Stillwater native and colorectal surgeon, Dr. Gordy Klatt wanted to raise money to fight all types of cancer. He enjoyed running marathons. His friends paid $25 to run around the track with him at a University at Tocoma, Washington. He raised $27,000 that first year and nearly 300 of his family, friends and patients watched as he ran and walked the track all night.

Relay for Life is the largest fund raising event in the world. It represents the hope that those lost to cancer will never be forgotten and is designed to celebrate survivorship and raise money to fight cancer.

Throughout the years, Dr. Klatt has written and spoken about how cancer can personally affect anyone. About a month ago, Dr. Klatt was diagnosed with stomach cancer and will begin his own battle with the disease.

All area residents are invited to the Staples Elementary School and grounds on Friday evening, June 8 to help make more birthdays happen. The following is the story of Dr. Klatts purpose of the all night event; the darkness of the disease and the light and hope of finding a cure and becoming a survivor.

Gordy’s Vision

Dr. Klatt had a purpose when he began the 24 hour relay in 1985. The significance of daytime and nighttime coincides with the journey that all cancer patients go through.

Clear your mind and picture...

It’s daylight. Life is wonderful. You’re healthy, happy and looking forward to the future. You’re looking forward to your child’s dance recital or taking your child to Disney World for a vacation. You’re looking forward to the new house you just bought. You have a new dream job that you’re thrilled about.

But then,...darkness falls.

You hear those words “You’ve got cancer,” or worse, your child has cancer. Your life has suddenly become very dark. You don’t know what the outcome will be. You feel there is no hope in sight. You start your treatments. You’re nauseous and you have no hair. You’re exhausted from caring for your child and from the agony knowing there’s nothing you can do to make him healthy again. You couldn’t possibly feel any worse.


The sun starts to rise. The tumor is shrinking. Your treatments are working. You’re getting your appetite back. Your child feels well enough to go out and play for just a few minutes. There is hope.

It is now daylight and you’re in remission. You have your life back. You’ve made it through the night and the darkness. You celebrate life in the daylight, knowing that the darkness of nighttime is behind you.

This is why we relay.

This is why relay is an overnight event.

For information or to volunteer contact Barb Peterson, 218-894-2627 or Bonnie Thoele, 218-894-3638.

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