The cadence of pounding feet looping around a track was the only company Dr. Gordon Klatt ’64 had during his 24-hour solo relay in Tacoma, Washington, in 1985. Alternating between walking and running laps, Klatt traveled 83 miles around the track and raised $27,000 in donations from family and friends in what would become the 30-year-old-and-counting Relay For Life.
This year’s event, which will take place April 17-18, is the seventh annual Relay For Life at St. Thomas. Approximately 500 people, made up of students, faculty, alumni and family members of participants, are expected to partake in the relay. The coordinators of Relay For Life encourage anyone to attend the event, whether or not their lives have been touched by cancer. It will last 6 p.m.-4 a.m in the AARC field house.
The money raised at the event goes to American Cancer Society programs, including cancer research, cancer patient housing and transportation, and a 24-hour support hotline.
Klatt, the founder of Relay For Life and a recipient of the 2012 St. Thomas Day Humanitarian Award, died Aug. 3, 2014, after battling stomach cancer. Caity Kubicek ’15, president of St. Thomas’ Colleges Against Cancer, said Klatt “started the fight for more birthdays.” Klatt gave the opening speech at St. Thomas’ Relay For Life in 2013 and led participants around the first lap, which is dedicated to cancer survivors.
“Having Gordy personally inspire students at St. Thomas to continue the fight was very touching,” Kubicek said. She added that Relay For Life plays a slideshow each year to honor those who lost the battle to cancer or in support of those still fighting it within the St. Thomas community. Klatt will be honored in this year’s slideshow.
Kubicek, who became involved with Relay For Life in honor of her late grandmother, said planning an event that celebrates and remembers survivors and fights against cancer fulfills the flame inside her to make the world a better place.
The planning for the 2015 Relay For Life took nine months, and the event has an “Around the World” theme. Activities representing each continent will be held every hour. Participants can get henna tattoos, receive free food from Subway, Toppers Pizza and KIND Healthy Snacks, participate in a photo booth and cake walk, and see performances by Duniya Drum & Dance ensemble and magician Matt Dunn.
Traditional activities such as a silent auction, survivor dinner and luminaria ceremony also will be included.
Rahel Lemma ’16, vice president of Colleges Against Cancer, said the goal of Relay For Life is to show cancer patients that everyone is in the fight together.
“We celebrate the survivors, remember those who have lost their battle with cancer and fight back by making a commitment to help save lives,” Lemma said.
Laura Tormanen ’17, Colleges Against Cancer president elect, said the luminaria ceremony is her favorite part of the event. “During this time of the night, we turn off all of the lights and place glow sticks in the luminara bags bordering the entire track,” Tormanen said. “Each bag is decorated by a participant in honor or memory of a loved one. The sight of the massive amount of glowing bags really tugs at your heartstrings.
“It is truly an inspiring event that everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime,” Tormanen said.