One person can make a difference. Nowhere is that more evident than with the story of Dr. Gordy Klatt and the American Cancer Society 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 against cancer 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 donated $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.
While he circled the track those 24 hours, he thought about how others could take part. He envisioned a 24-hour team relay event that could raise more money to fight cancer. Months later he pulled together a small committee to plan the first team relay event known as the City of Destiny Classic 24-Hour Run Against Cancer.
In 1986, 19 teams took part in the first team relay event on the track at the colorful, historical Stadium Bowl and raised $33,000. An indescribable spirit prevailed at the track and in the tents that dotted the infield.
The vision turned into over 5,200 Relay For Life events across the United States today and nearly $5 billion in fundraising to save lives from cancer. In addition, the American Cancer Society licenses twenty non-governmental cancer organizations in other countries to hold Relay For Life events to battle cancer across the globe.
For 28 years, Relay For Life has provided inspiration and hope for millions of cancer survivors and caregivers.
Dr. Gordy Klatt, founder of the American Cancer Society Relay For Life program, says he has been diagnosed with stomach cancer. In an email to Society staff, Klatt stated:
“Throughout the years I have spoken and written about how cancer can personally affect everyone. It affects the rich, the poor, and all nationalities and cultures around the world. About 4 weeks ago I was diagnosed with stomach cancer and I have begun my battle with this disease using chemotherapy.”
In 2012, Dr. Gordy Klatt was awarded the 2012 Humanitarian of the Year Award from his alma mater, the University of St. Thomas.