35 years ago a Tacoma surgeon created the Relay For Life

TACOMA, WA - Friday, Hundreds walked around the field at Tahoma Memorial Stadium for the kick-off of the 35th annual Relay For Life.

In 1985, Dr. Gordy Klatt wanted to make a difference.

“He had this crazy idea that if he went out to a high school track and ran around it for 24 hours it would help raise awareness,” said Gary Reedy, CEO of the American Cancer Society.

Not only did Klatt raise awareness he raised more than $20,000.

Since then, Reedy says the Relay For Life has raised $6 billion.

The first Relay happened at Baker Stadium at the university of Puget Sound in Tacoma.

Thirty-five years later, the American Cancer Society celebrated the milestone anniversary at Mt. Tahoma High School.

The track was filled with hundreds of people whose lives have been impacted by cancer.

While the event features a lot of fun, and light-hearted activities, there is also a focus on remember the lives lost to cancer.

Circled around the entire track, luminaries are lit, each one honoring a loved one who has battled cancer. Some of the luminaries are celebratory, others are somber.

Later into the evening, the hundreds in attendance walked in silence around the entire track. The only sounds that could be heard were a bagpipe leading the group.

“We’re both survivors,” said Robert Kavanaugh.

Kavanaugh says he remembers when the doctor told him he had cancer.

“I made a joke of it,” he said.

He said hearing his diagnosis was much easier, than when doctors told him his 4-month-old son had cancer.

Luckily, both are now cancer free.

Kavanaugh says during his son’s battle with cancer, the Relay For Life was a big support system.

Klatt passed away in 2014, but or millions of people across the world, his impact continues to live on, and it all started in Tacoma.