Relay For Life

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Relay For Life
TypeFundraising event for the ACS
Region served
Parent organization
American Cancer Society

Relay For Life is a community-based fundraising event for the American Cancer Society.[1] Each year, more than 5,000 Relay For Life events take place in over twenty countries.[2] Events are held in local communities, university campuses and as virtual campaigns.[3] As the American Cancer Society's most successful fundraiser and the organization's signature event, the mission of Relay For Life is to raise funds to improve cancer survival, decrease the incidence of cancer, and improve the quality of life for cancer patients and their caretakers.[4]

A Relay For Life event is organized under a volunteer Relay Committee and implemented by volunteers.[5][6] It is often organized as a multi-day public gathering, spanning all day and night in a large outdoor space, and many people bring tents and camp out around the walking tracks. Currently, almost 4 million people take part in Relay events in over 5,000 communities in the United States.[7]

It is estimated that Relay For Life events have raised nearly $5 billion to date.[8] The first team to raise over $1 million was the Rosebud Miners.[9] The largest virtual fundraising event is Relay For Life of Second Life, which has raised more than $4,000,000 since 2005.[10]

The following countries hold Relay For Life events:[11] Australia, Belgium, Bermuda, Canada, France, Denmark, Guatemala, Honduras, Ireland, Jamaica, Japan, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Philippines, Portugal, South Africa, United Kingdom, United States and Zambia.


In May 1985, Gordon Klatt, a colorectal surgeon from Tacoma, Washington, decided he wanted to raise money for the American Cancer Society. Because he enjoyed marathons, Klatt walked around the track at Baker Stadium at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma for 24 hours. Throughout the night, friends paid $25 to run or walk 30 minutes with him. He walked approximately 83 miles and raised $27,000 for cancer research. Nearly 300 of Klatt's friends, family, and patients watched as he ran and walked the course. After this event, Klatt thought about how other people could participate in a similar event in their own community. He recruited a small team of people to host the City of Destiny Classic 24-Hour Run Against Cancer.[12]

Countries and their names[edit]

Many countries participate with their own names for their events.

Country Translation Cancer Society
Argentina Relay For Life Liga Argentina de Lucha Contra el Cáncer
Australia Relay For Life Cancer Council
Belgium Levensloop (Dutch)

Relais pour la Vie (French)

Relay For Life (English)

Stichting tegen Kanker

Fondation contre le Cancer

Foundation against Cancer

Bermuda Relay For Life of Bermuda Bermuda Cancer and Health Centre (founded by Ron Spencer III)
Canada Relais pour la Vie (French)

Relay For Life (English)

Société canadienne du cancer

Canadian Cancer Society

France Relais pour la Vie Ligue Nationale Contre le Cancer
Denmark Stafet for Livet Danish Cancer Society
Honduras Relevo por la Vida Asociacion Hondurena de la Lucha Contra el Cancer
India Relay For Life Indian Cancer Society
Ireland Relay For Life Irish Cancer Society
Israel Relay For Life Israel Cancer Association
Jamaica Relay For Life Jamaica Cancer Society
Japan Relay For Life Japan Cancer Society
Kenya Relay For Life Kencansa (Kenya Cancer Association)
Luxembourg Relais pour la Vie Fondation Cancer
Malaysia Relay For Life NCSM (National Cancer Society of Malaysia)
Netherlands Samenloop voor Hoop KWF Kanker bestrijding

Dutch Cancer Society

New Zealand Relay For Life Cancer Society of New Zealand
Norway Stafett for livet Kreft Foreningen

Norwegian Cancer Society

Philippines Relay For Life Philippine Cancer Society
Portugal Um dia pela Vida Liga Portuguesa Contra o Cancro
Singapore Relay For Life Singapore Cancer Society
South Africa Relay For Life Cansa (Cancer Association of South Africa)
Switzerland Relay For Life Krebsliga (Deutch)

Swiss Cancer League (English)

Turkey Relay For Life Pembe hanim
United Arab Emirates Relay For Life FOCP (Friends of Cancer Patients)
United Kingdom Relay For Life Cancer Research UK
United States Relay For Life American Cancer Society
Uruguay Relevo por la Vida Peluffo Giguens Foundation
Zambia Relay For Life Zambian Cancer Society


Luminaries at night
The start of a Survivor's Lap
Close-up of a luminaria placed at a Relay for Life

Although all Relays vary, there are a few common features:[13]

  • A Survivor Dinner.
  • A Survivor Lap, which starts the Relay event.
  • An Opening Lap, in which all the participants take a lap around the track.
  • A Luminaria Ceremony, usually with a candlelight vigil.
  • A Closing Ceremony, including a final lap for all participants. Awards are given to teams for various achievements, such as most laps walked and most money raised.
  • A "Fight Back" Ceremony, in which participants pledge to take specific actions against cancer.

Survivor Lap and Survivor Dinner[edit]

The American Cancer Society defines a cancer survivor as anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer.[14] At most Relay events, a Survivor Dinner is held for survivors in the community. The Survivor Lap, which is often the first lap of a Relay event, is used to identify the survivors. At some events, survivors are invited to speak at Relay events to encourage those with cancer.[15]

Luminaria Ceremony[edit]

At Relay For Life, participants celebrate survivors and remember those lost to the disease. The Luminaria Ceremony is targeted toward remembering.[16] During this time, participants are asked to gather and honor those who have survived cancer and to remember those who have died from cancer. Luminaria bags are often decorated by participants. These bags are often then placed around the track and candles inside the bags are lit before the start of the Luminaria Ceremony.[17] At some Relay events, pictures of cancer patients are shown as songs and readings are delivered.

Closing Ceremony[edit]

The Closing Ceremony, held toward the end of Relay events, is when participants pledge to take action and spread awareness of cancer research, treatments, and prevention. Participants are encouraged to hold events in the community to increase awareness of smoking cessation, routine screenings, general cancer awareness and volunteer opportunities. A representative from the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) may come to a Relay event and speak about cancer prevention bills and legislation that are trying to be passed as well as encourage ACS CAN participation.[18]


The American Cancer Society states that money raised through Relay For Life events goes to the following efforts:[19]

  • Research grants and research programs
  • Prevention programs
  • Community and patient support programs
  • Detection and treatment programs
  • Fundraising
  • Construction of Hope Lodges

According to a study conducted by The American Cancer Society in 2013, the following was noted for how funds raised by Relay For Life have impacted communities nationwide:

  • Saved Patients more than $38 million in lodging costs by providing a free place to stay through the Hope Lodge program
  • Provided more than 380,000 rides to and from treatment or medical appointments
  • Contributed to a 50% drop in smoking since 1946
  • Marked a 20% decline in cancer-related deaths since 1991. That means more than 1.3 million lives saved.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "American Cancer Society's Relay For Life of Hurley to Hold Golf Tournament". Archived from the original on 7 November 2013. Retrieved 24 July 2013.
  2. ^ "Tell Cancer to Take a Hike this Weekend in Ferndale". 5 June 2013. Retrieved 24 July 2013.
  3. ^ "Relay For Everyone". Retrieved 24 July 2013.
  4. ^ "Relay For Life of Mountain View, CA". Retrieved 24 July 2013.
  5. ^ "Relay For Life Volunteers". Archived from the original on December 12, 2013. Retrieved 7 November 2013.
  6. ^ "American Cancer Society - Relay For Life". Retrieved 7 November 2013.
  7. ^ "Dr. Gordy Klatt". Retrieved 7 November 2013.
  8. ^ "Kickoff tonight for Mansfield Relay For Life". Archived from the original on December 10, 2013. Retrieved 24 July 2013.
  9. ^ "Ford City Relay for Life seeks quarters". Retrieved 7 November 2013.
  10. ^ "History of RFL of SL". Retrieved 10 October 2013.
  11. ^ "American Cancer Society Relay Events - Relay For Life". Archived from the original on August 25, 2011. Retrieved 13 January 2015.
  12. ^ "Run Walk Ride Pioneers: Gordy Klatt, Relay for Life". Archived from the original on 7 November 2013. Retrieved 7 November 2013.
  13. ^ "About Relay For Life". Retrieved 16 April 2013.
  14. ^ "Cancer Survivors: Make Changes for Long-Term Health Gains". Retrieved 10 October 2013.
  15. ^ "Survivors and Caregivers". Retrieved 24 July 2013.
  16. ^ "Celebrate Remember, Fight Back At Castro Valley's 'Relay for Life'". Retrieved 24 July 2013.
  17. ^ "Cancer survivors invited to celebrate at Relay For Life". 23 July 2013. Retrieved 24 July 2013.
  18. ^ "ACS CAN". Retrieved 24 July 2013.
  19. ^ "Relay for Life: Communities making a commitment to fight cancer". Archived from the original on December 10, 2013. Retrieved 7 November 2013.

External links[edit]