Celebrate, remember, fight back

By LOIS RABOIN – Guest Columnist

One question I am asked often is, "What is Relay For Life"? When asked this, I generally launch into my story that started back in 1985.

That year my twin nieces graduated from high school in Tacoma, Wash., and their father, Dr. Gordy Klatt, a Tacoma colo-rectal surgeon, wanting to raise money for his local American Cancer Society, decided to do something he enjoyed. Gordy ran marathons, so he felt he could do something that he enjoyed to raise awareness and funds.

That spring weekend, Gordy, along with friends, family and colleagues walked and ran for 24 hours. Throughout that time, friends paid $25 to walk or run with him. Gordy walked and ran 83 miles and raised $27,000 to help fight cancer.

During the event, people would stop and sit in the stands. Many of them were Gordy’s patients. The local news and radio stations reported the event as it happened so word spread and by the end of the event, more than 300 people were in the stands.

Throughout the night, Gordy and his colleagues talked about how they could continue this as a team event. Out of that weekend in 1985, Relay For Life, as we know it was born.

The next year, the City of Destiny Classic 24-Hour Run Against Cancer was held in Tacoma as the first Relay For Life. Once again I was lucky enough to be there for this event. There were 19 teams at that first team event at Tacoma’s Stadium Bowl. The run raised $33,000.

It was incredible to see the tents pop up on the football field and realize that something great was going to come from this. Today there are events held in every state in the United States and 18 countries worldwide. This international event is the largest fund-raiser for the American Cancer Society. Thanks to Gordy Klatt’s vision, millions of dollars are raised every year for cancer research and to support cancer patients.

About a month ago I received a call telling me that Gordy Klatt has been diagnosed with stomach cancer. To say this was a shock is an understatement. Here is a man who has dedicated many years of his life to raising money and helping cancer patients and now he faces his own battle. Gordy has started chemotherapy treatments and will have surgery later this summer. I know Gordy is getting the best care and he has a very positive outlook. He will beat this. I am keeping Gordy, his children and his family in my prayers and I ask you to do the same.

We all know someone who has been diagnosed with cancer. The three words every one fears are, "You have cancer."

But those words are no longer a death sentence. Thanks to money raised at Relay events like ours in Stillwater, researchers are finding cures for certain cancers and people are living long and happy lives.

Because cancer never sleeps, Relays are overnight events. The 24-hour Relay For Life of Stillwater is Aug. 3 and 4. The event runs from 6 p.m. Friday to 6 p.m. Saturday. If you are interested in learning more about our Relay For Life, please come to our next Relay For Life meeting at 7 p.m. May 15th at the Knights of Columbus Hall, 1910 So Greeley St. in Stillwater.

Please contact Lois Raboin 612-210-9948, email [email protected] or go to our web site at www.relayforlife.org/stillwatermn for more information.

Lois Raboin in the 2012 Relay For Life chairman.