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Dr. Gordy Klatt had seen many cancer patients when he decided to assist them in other ways besides as a physician. Klatt resolved to run on a track for 24 hours and for a donation, his friends could join him. With this decision, the Relay for Life was born. In its first year, the relay generated $25,000 for the American Cancer Society. In its second year, teams were formed and $33,000 was raised.
Now, 25 years later, the event has grown to practically every state in the U.S. and raised around $3 billion for the Cancer Society.
Los Alamos will celebrate the relay’s 25th anniversary by hosting the event Friday and Saturday at Ashley Pond.
The event kicks off at 6 p.m. Friday and runs till noon Saturday.
Events included in these two days are the Survivor Lap and reception, the luminaria ceremony, a silent auction, a breakfast prepared by the Masons and many different games and activities for children and families.
Plus, Tony Chan, Peace Meal and the HillStompers will perform throughout the two days.
While the relay raises money for the American Cancer Society, it is also an event to remember and honor those affected by cancer. It also provides mutual support and helps bring closure to those who have lost family or friends to cancer.
This is not a somber event, Alan Wadlinger, co-chair of the event along with Cindy Eaton, said.
“In some sense it is a celebration that we are gaining on cancer,” he said. “It really celebrates the advances we are making on cancer.”
So far, Eaton said 17 teams with a total of 158 members have signed up. On-line donations have totaled $12,000. The goal is to raise $50,000.
The money goes to a worthy cause, the American Cancer Society’s goal, Wadlinger said, is to prevent cancer, save lives and reduce suffering through research, education, advocacy and community service.
It’s a fight he seems willing to aid in. “I hate this disease,” Wadlinger said. “It hits children and adults in the prime of life. It devastates families.”
These are not careless words. Wadlinger lost his wife to breast cancer in 1992 and both Eaton and Wadlinger recently lost a friend to cancer.
Eaton has also had her share of this disease. She lost her husband to cancer six years ago.
She said at one point, her family’s vacations were spent in hospitals. They set up a tent in their yard for a camping adventure since they couldn’t go anywhere else.
“It really changes your entire life … no matter who has it,” Eaton said.
The American Cancer Society is here to help Eaton, Wadlinger and the many other individuals who are impacted by cancer.
A few programs they offer include Feel Good, Look Good, which is for women who have cancer. It teaches them how to wear a wig and apply makeup. Another program is Camp of Enchantment, which is for siblings of cancer patients.
When a child gets diagnosed with cancer, Wadlinger said, all the parents’ attention gets drawn to them.
To make sure their siblings are not left in the dark, the Camp of Enchantment is held annually at Ghost Ranch for children to meet and bond with other young people in similar situations.
For more information about Relay for Life, visit www.relayforlife.org/losalamosnm.