Relay for Life to honor founder Gordy Klatt

Relay for Life is a community-based fundraising event run through the American Cancer Society where individuals organize into teams. It is an overnight walk where teams camp out on the track and members from those teams take turns walking throughout the night. This year it will be happening on May 1 starting at 5 p.m. when President Ronald Thomas will be speaking at the celebration for Gordon Klatt. The event will take place at Baker Stadium.

The event starts with a survivors’ lap where all cancer survivors at the event take the first lap around the track. After sundown, a luminaria ceremony takes place and those who have passed away from cancer are honored with personalized bags that are placed around the track.

Relay for Life was founded by Puget Sound honorary alum, Gordy Klatt ‘08. The first Relay for Life was held at the University of Puget Sound in 1985. He was a colorectal surgeon who loved his work and his patients. He touched many lives in Pierce County, and his level of care and compassion went above and beyond the norm for many surgeons and doctors.

Even with the hectic schedule of running his practice, owning a business and being a Relay for Life spokesman, Klatt always had time for his patients.

His dream for the first Relay for Life was spurred by being a board member for the Pierce County Unit of the American Cancer Society. He saw a need for funding, and decided to support the local American Cancer Society.

Thus, he offered to run/walk for 24 hours to raise the funds. In 1985, he raised $27,000 at the University. He began to envision the event as a team event where members took turns walking and the idea for Relay for Life was born.

Since 1985, Relay for Life has raised over $5 billion for the American Cancer Society. Klatt passed away on Aug. 3, 2014 at the age of 71 from heart failure after battling stomach cancer. At this year’s Relay for Life, his life and legacy will be honored.

Klatt continues to inspire many, including Mitchell La Marco, the Relay for Life Community Manager for the University of Puget Sound.

“Dr. Klatt is an inspiration to me because he made a dream a reality and that reality changed the world,” La Marco said. “His 24-hour run is now the world’s largest fundraising event with Relay For Life events in 6,000 communities in the United States and in more than 20 countries. In places where cancer was never discussed, people now talk about cancer because of fear. People don’t see cancer as a death sentence anymore.  People now understand that cancer is survivable.”

Many individuals are very passionate about raising money for cancer because someone in their life has been diagnosed with and battled cancer.

Sophomore Amanda Johnson, the Co-Chair of Activities, Ceremonies and Entertainment for the Relay for Life Committee, speaks about her good friend from elementary school, Delaney, being diagnosed with cancer when they were in eighth grade. She passed away in high school. Although the diagnosis put a strain on their relationship, it was the start of her involvement in Relay for Life.

“When someone is going through things with cancer, you don’t always feel like you can help them. You feel helpless… because of how our friendship distanced, I wanted to be on this team to support Delaney in anyway I could,” Johnson said.

“Her battle put a lot of things into perspective… how I am a healthy, young woman who has the ability to do so many things. She was my inspiration to do those things and challenge myself. In that way, I continue to participate in Relay every year to honor her and all the survivors I have met.”

Other clubs on campus have become involved in participating in Relay for Life.  Circle K has put together a team, and they have been working very hard to raise funds for the event.

Their team captain, sophomore Tammy Hoang, has held a bake sale to raise funds to contribute under the Circle K Relay for Life team. Hoang intends to hold a raffle later this month to raise more funds.

Relay for Life is an extraordinary event that honors those who have battled cancer.

To sign up for a team go to There is a $10 fee to participate.