In May 1985, US colorectal surgeon, Dr. Gordy Klatt, wanted to raise awareness for cancer and boost the vital funding for his local cancer charity.
He spent a gruelling twenty-four hours circulating a track in Tacoma, Washington, and raised over $27,000 (US dollars) in the first Relay for Life.
Fast forward nearly 40 years and Relay for Life has spread to nearly 20 countries, becoming the largest fundraising event for cancer in the world.
With over four million participants, this inspirational overnight event empowers and unites local communities to make strides towards our ultimate vision – a cancer free future.
Australia’s first Relay for Life was held in 1999 when the Victorian community of Murrumbeena raised over $75,000 for Cancer Council. Relays are now held in every Australian State and Territory, with more than 134,000 participants raising over $14 million each year.
Every dollar raised goes towards funding Cancer Council’s vital research, prevention and support programs, many of which help people in our community every day.
In the warmup for this year’s Relay for Life, we spoke to someone who is at the heart of Relay for Life in WA, Sandy Taseff. Sandy is the Deputy Chair of Relay for Life West Coast.
Read on to learn about Sandy’s story.
“I first got involved in Relay for Life Perth in 2019. My family and friends created our team “The Victors”, in memory of my husband Victor”, Sandy recalls.
“I loved the weekend so much that I asked to join the organising committee. I’ve been involved in four Relays – two for Perth, the inaugural West Coast Relay at Kings Park, and last year’s Relay for Life West Coast at HBF Arena Joondalup”, she shares.
Sandy says the energy and atmosphere are broad and cover many emotions.
“From the celebration of survivors and carers when they lead off the first lap, to the teams or people raising money on the day, teams who are running laps the whole 24 hours, that energy is electric and so positive”, Sandy says.
“The candlelight ceremony at night is very moving and emotional, as we remember those we have lost to cancer. We watch their photos come up on the big screen and pause to share in our grief together”, she shares.
Whilst the opening mood is sombre and is a time to reflect, Sandy also notes there is so much fun to be had throughout the day!
“Some don’t sleep, some try to do more laps than they did the previous year and everyone has their own reason to Relay. I really look forward to the peaceful moments of the early morning before the sun has come up. Walking on my own, with my thoughts and just enjoying the peace is beautiful. There really isn’t anything like it. It’s wonderful”, Sandy shares.
It’s like a big festival or camp for people who want to make a difference. You can dress up, run the laps, walk them, sleep, don’t sleep, and be part of the amazing overnight event. It’s so unique.
Relay for Life is like no other charity event.
In the past seven years, Relayers in Australia, like Sandy, have raised over $137.5 million.
Improvements in cancer prevention and screening mean that less people will hear the words, “you have cancer”.
Advancements in cancer treatments allow those impacted by cancer to spend more time with their loved ones. These achievements are only possible through the support of people like you. By continuing to participate in Relay for Life, we will save more lives.