According to Whitney Minnick, Senior Development Manager for the Southeast Region of the American Cancer Society, the Global Relay For Life movement started because of one person. In May 1985, Dr. Gordon “Gordy” Klatt walked and ran for 24 hours around a track in Tacoma, Washington, USA, raising money to help the American Cancer Society with the nation’s biggest health concern: cancer. Friends, family, and patients watched and supported him as he walked and ran more than 83.6 miles and raised $27,000 through pledges to help save lives from cancer.
As he circled the track, he thought of how he could get others to take part. He envisioned having teams participate in a 24-hour fundraising event. The next year, 19 teams were part of the first Relay For Life event at the historical Stadium Bowl and raised $33,000. Dr. Gordy’s vision grew throughout the United States becoming the American Cancer Society’s premier fundraising event. In only 10 years, Relay For Life started receiving attention across the world and the Global Relay For Life movement began. In 1997, the United Kingdom held the first ever Global Relay For Life in Portsmouth UK, supporting Cancer Research UK.
Locally, the Harrisonburg/Rockingham Relay for Life began in 1995; the Shenandoah County group began shortly after in 1997. This year’s Relay for Life event dates locally are Harrisonburg/Rockingham, June 1, 2024, at the Rockingham County Fairground from 2 to 10 pm and Shenandoah County, September 7, 2024, at the Shenandoah County Park at Maurertown (time to be determined.) Whitney Minnick, who is the Senior Development Manager for the Southeast Region of the American Cancer Society, helps both Harrisonburg/Rockingham County and Shenandoah County with their Relays for Life.
Consider joining others in this important endeavor. Check out the website at cancer.org or contact Whitney at 540.820.8805 or at Whitney.Minnick@cancer.org; she will connect you with the right person in each locality. The American Cancer Society also sponsors informational events to raise awareness like the one held in Harrisonburg last fall.
Lois Conley, an assistant in Special Education at John C. Meyers Elementary School in Broadway, says that she originally became involved in the Rockingham County Relay for Life in 2000 and had been active in it for several years. “It became real when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001. The highlights this past year were the comradery between the teams and their members and the intense need to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.” She mentions that Relay for Life is organized and run by volunteers who work for countless hours on the event, and says that anyone who wants to organize a team or help with the event should contact the American Cancer Society for Harrisonburg/Rockingham County.
Conley continues “I had not been involved in the last several years for many reasons but this past spring my niece Rebecca Foltz formed a team “Unforgettable Warriors” that consisted of many friends and family members who had either been diagnosed with cancer or knew someone who had. I was diagnosed with breast cancer a second time in 2016 and doing well, I also had other siblings that were diagnosed with other types of cancer this past year. The support from our team and not to mention the fun we had together is priceless!”
Pattie Kerlin is an Event Leadership Team member for Relay for Life in Shenandoah County, Virginia. She became an Event Lead with Whitney Minnick, from the American Cancer Society, in 2017. Pattie first became involved when she worked with BB& T in 2015 when Relay for Life was held at Massanutten Military Academy. Prior to that, the Shenandoah County Fairgrounds was the site of the event. She says “Our Relay is a big family working towards the goal of eliminating cancer. We have teams that have just started and teams that have been there many, many years. We even had parking lot events during COVID.
Last year, we raised $137,000. The 2024 Relay for Life Event will be held at the Shenandoah County Park in Maurertown on September 7, 2024. Anyone interested in helping in any way or donating can reach out to me at email@example.com. They can also go to the website. Teams for the Relay for Life can be large or small, and we can help get a team started or assist them in joining an established team. The Shenandoah County Relay for Life was recognized in 2022 by the American Cancer Society with the Power of Hope Southeast Region Award for their recognition of survivors. The Southeast Region includes VA, WV, GA, NC, SC, and Puerto Rico.”
George Brinkley from Woodstock in Shenandoah County was just named the Shenandoah County Chamber of Commerce’s Citizen of the Year. Mr. Brinkley and his team have been top fundraisers at the Shenandoah County Relay for Life for many years!