CHEYENNE – The American Cancer Society Relay For Life began in May 1985 when colorectal surgeon Dr. Gordy Klatt wanted to raise awareness of cancer and increase the income of his local cancer charity.
He spent 24 hours walking around a track in Tacoma, Washington, and raised more than $27,000.
The mission to eradicate cancer continued Saturday at Holliday Park with Cheyenne and Laramie County residents celebrating Relay For Life for the 26th time.
Around 300 people took part, with many of them being cancer survivors and caregivers.
The event started with survivors taking the first lap around the parking lot nearest the Big Boy 4004 steam engine, then caregivers joined in for the second lap.
One participant was three-time cancer survivor Beverly Gross of Cheyenne. She said she has participated in the relay in Cheyenne since the beginning, many of those as an American Cancer Society staff member.
“I love to do this, and I love the American Cancer Society,” Gross said. “I know what the American Cancer Society does because I work for them. I see the big picture. We’ve spent a lot of money for research at (the University of Wyoming). We’ve funded four professors there for cancer research.”
Beverly’s husband, Bob, accompanied her on the survivor’s walk.
“It was a clinical trial that saved her life,” he said. “If not for research that supports clinical trials, she wouldn’t be here today. That’s why it’s important for us to do things like Relay For Life, (which) provides money that supports research clinical trials that advance treatment. We need to keep working hard to find those answers.”
All participants joined in during the third lap. Some were walking dogs, others had babies in strollers and kids in tow.
A cornhole team tournament was also part of the festivities, along with plenty of food and drinks.
For Tammy Bauman of Cheyenne, it was her eighth year participating in the relay. She said she was walking for her friend.
“I’ve had a lot of family and friends who were and have been impacted by cancer,” Bauman said. “I think it’s a cause that we should support every year. I have a very good friend who is continuing to fight lymphoma cancer. My mother is a breast cancer survivor. I lost an uncle last year to cancer. It’s important to me to support the community and the cause.”
Bauman said she also participated in Saturday morning’s Wyoming Pink Ribbon Run. That one was for her mom, she said.
Kent Carter of Cheyenne was a member of Team Walmart. He was walking for his mother, he said. It was his fourth time participating.
“She died when I was six,” Carter said. “She died of ovarian cancer, so back then it was a death sentence. By helping with this, maybe little kids don’t have to hear that their mom isn’t coming home. Cancer takes unnecessary lives, and if we work together, we can conquer it.”
According to local American Cancer Society officials, the Relay For Life events in Cheyenne and Laramie County have raised nearly $3 million over the years for the cause of beating cancer.
Amanda McAlaster, also with Team Walmart, was participating in her 18th relay, the first of those taking place in Springfield, Missouri, with a Walmart team and now in Cheyenne.
“I have six people that have passed away in my family,” McAlaster said.
Cancer is the second-most common cause of death in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society, exceeded only by heart disease. It accounts for nearly one out of every four deaths.
Almost 1,700 people in the U.S. die of cancer each day. That adds up to more than 600,000 Americans dying of cancer this year alone.