TERRE HAUTE —
Cancer never sleeps, nor does the fight against its spread.
Volunteers worked the pavement purple on Wabash Avenue at Eighth Street Sunday, painting a ribbon in front of the Terre Haute Children’s Museum as promotion of the upcoming Relay for Life Vigo County.
Pam Chamberlain, 2012 chairwoman, said plans are well under way for the July 21-22 event at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology’s Student Rec Center.
“So far we have close to 20 teams,” she said of the early sign-up. Last year’s local Relay for Life drew 48 teams and more than 1,000 participants to what has become an annual tradition nationwide. “This is our 20th year.”
This year’s event will kick off at 2 p.m. Saturday and run through 6 a.m. Sunday. Teams will keep at least one member on the track for the event’s duration, all in an effort to raise money for the American Cancer Society’s ongoing battle with that disease.
“Cancer never sleeps,” Chamberlain said, noting her best friend, Kris Eaton, recently died of the disease at the age of 38. “That’s just not fair.”
Meanwhile, fun activities for kids will be hosted throughout the night, including basketball and volleyball tournaments, a climbing wall and a “jolly jumper,” she said. Entertainers wishing to volunteer their time to the cause will find a couple thousand receptive eyes and ears throughout the event, she said.
And the exercise involved in walking about the track is a great way to fight cancer all by itself, she said.
“It’s also a great way to kick-start a diet or exercise routine,” she said.
And in some ways, that’s how the tradition got started.
Pat O’Leary was among the volunteers painting the purple ribbon on Wabash Avenue on Sunday morning, enlisting the help of her 11-year-old grandson, Carter Sutherland who, like her, wore the purple shirt of a Relay for Life supporter.
The original Relay for Life Vigo County chairwoman, O’Leary brought the program to Terre Haute 20 years ago while working for the Hux Cancer Center.
“Our first relay was in 1989 and we had six teams,” she said, noting some years have brought out as many as 100 teams. “It has grown, and nationwide it’s grown. It’s overseas, too.”
The Relay For Life program grew from the idea of Dr. Gordy Klatt, a colorectal surgeon from Tacoma, Wash., who decided to merge his passion for marathon running with a fundraising initiative on behalf of the American Cancer Society. Throughout the early 1980s, Klatt ran on behalf of his local American Cancer Society office, but in May of 1985, he decided to try a grueling 24-hour, one-man run, making it 83 miles and raising $27,000. That feat sparked the idea for a relay in which participants would form teams and compete for dollars raised.
More than two decades ago, O’Leary traveled to Tacoma to meet Klatt and learn how to host a relay event, and the group has been running hard ever since.
Brian Boyce can be reached at 812-231-4253 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Visit www.cancer.org or visit Facebook at Vigo County Relay for Life.