Relay for Life is one of the most recognizable fundraisers in America. The money raised through Relay for Life events goes towards the American Cancer Society, who has provided $406 million to cancer research, over 1.2 million chats and calls to patients and caregivers looking for info and support, and 456,000 nights of free lodging for patients at the Hope Lodge using RFL donations.
Dr. Gordon "Gordy" Klatt founded Relay for Life in May of 1985 when he walked and ran for 24 hours around a track in Tacoma, Washington to raise money for the American Cancer Society. After walking 83.6 miles, he had raised $27,000 through pledges to help save lives from cancer. This historical night was the seed of a global event that has since raised over $5 billion to help save lives throughout the world.
Today, Relay for Life is a 24-hour event run completely by volunteers where team members take turns walking around a track to bring communities together and raise money for the battle against cancer. Teams get sponsors to pledge money per lap, and the more laps they walk, the more money they raise. And though Relay for Life is first and foremost a fundraiser, it’s also a celebration. They want to honor those who have been affected by cancer and celebrate how far we’ve come in research while also emphasizing how much work we have left to do. The event is full of fun and festivities, with games, food, and other forms of entertainment. They encourage each team to dress up according to a theme and make the event memorable and exciting as well as productive and educational.
Every Relay for Life event is ceremonial, honoring survivors, caregivers, people currently battling cancer, and people we’ve lost to it. The opening ceremony welcomes all participants, and then the first lap is reserved for survivors and people currently affected by cancer to walk the track. The second lap is for caregivers who provide support to loved ones during cancer treatments, and then on the third lap, all the teams join in. There is always at least one member from each team walking the track to symbolize the constant, ongoing, and often lengthy nature of the battle against a disease that never sleeps. Those who aren’t walking can participate in games, entertainment, and other activities, meet members of other teams dedicated to the cause, and learn more about what they can do to be an even better advocate to the American Cancer Society.
After the sun goes down, Luminarias are lit to honor those who have lost their battle against cancer, celebrate those who have won, and stand in solidarity with those still fighting. Relay for Life recognizes darkness as a symbol of what every cancer patient feels after diagnosis, and uses Luminarias to remind everyone affected by it that they are not alone. The closing ceremonies thank the volunteers, team members, and other people in the community and remind everyone that RFL will keep fighting, working, and fundraising until cancer is eliminated.
If you’re interested in organizing your own Relay for Life fundraiser, you can start a chat with us here on Givebutter, and we'll help you organize a campaign that best suit your needs! Here are some general tips to help you make the most out of your next Relay for Life event:
- Design t-shirts, sweatshirts, or hats for people to buy at the event, and donate the proceeds! People love merchandise, and will be even more inclined to buy if it’s for a good cause. If your team is representing your business or organization, your design can incorporate Relay for Life and your brand so that you can raise more money for the American Cancer Society while also spreading the word about your own cause.
- A raffle or auction is a great way to raise extra funds. Raffle off something your team can provide and sell tickets at the event. You can ask people to donate themed goods, like spa items or workout items, and create baskets to auction off at the event.
- While your friends and family may be happy to contribute a small donation, you can really bring in the cash by securing a corporate sponsor. They’re more likely to have the capital to make a more sizable pledge, and it could be a good networking opportunity for your organization.
- Create a website for your fundraising efforts a few weeks before the actual event. Share photos and updates on your efforts, spread the word on social media, and encourage people to donate!