Thousands turn out to help mark 30 years of Tacoma Relay For Life

Staff writerJune 13, 2014 

Dark clouds loomed and flags rippled, but that was not going to dampen Linda Bird’s Relay For Life.

“Rain, sleet, snow or shine, we’ll be out here,” said Bird, a breast cancer survivor.

Bird was one of more than 3,000 people who attended Tacoma Relay For Life, which celebrated the 30th running of the Tacoma relay beginning Friday evening at Mount Tahoma High School.

Dr. Gordy Klatt completed the first relay in 1985 when he walked and ran for 24 hours around the track at Baker Stadium at the University of Puget Sound. Eighty-three miles later, Klatt had raised $27,000 for the American Cancer Society.

Participants have come from across the nation to take part in this year’s event.

Joleen Gross, who was diagnosed with a rare ovarian cancer 13 years ago, traveled from Kingman, Arizona, to attend.

“It is a privilege to be here,” Goss said.

She said she loves making friends at the relay and hearing stories of survival.

Goss is part of a relay team of 32 members from 10 states and two countries who all decided to travel to Tacoma to celebrate the landmark event.

Lori Kuhuski, the team captain, said she used social media to reach out to people willing to make the trip to Tacoma.

Nancy Douglas, co-chair of the Tacoma relay, said the 24-hour event provides cancer survivors and their families with a sense of belonging and support. She said survivors often find strength in knowing they are not alone in the fight against cancer.

“You can go to any relay and feel at home; we talk a lot about being a family,” Douglas said.

Pat Flynn, known by many as “Mother of Relay,” said the event provides a community for survivors and all that have been affected by cancer.

“There is an incredible sense of community around that track,” Flynn said.

Douglas said even though Tacoma has lots of community events, Relay For Life came along at the right time and turned into a global event.

“This just happens to be one the world grabbed,” Douglas said.

Since Klatt’s first relay, the organization has grown to more than 6,000 relays in 23 countries.

The organization has raised more than $5 billion for the American Cancer Society, making it the largest fundraising effort and the signature event for the society.

Flynn said it has been amazing working with Klatt to spread relay events across the nation and globe.

“It’s been a wonderful journey. I never would have dreamed I would be involved in this,” Flynn said.

Douglas said the event resonates with so many people because it allows them to give back to their community to work together against a universal disease.

Relay officials said they expect to raise $600,000 from the Tacoma event.

Ryan Tarinelli: 253-597-8670

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