The Relay For Life of Thurston County Is Looking to Make a Big Impact in 2024

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Each year, cancer survivors, caregivers and community members across the country gather at local walking fields and beyond in support of Relay for Life. This annual fundraising event for the American Cancer Society helps support patient care services, lodging and transportation, as well as cancer research. And as different facets of the community band together to fundraise, volunteer and attend the Relay for Life, each participant carries their own memories and their own “why” for getting involved, shares Karen Waddington, communications lead for the Relay For Life of Thurston County.

Huge crowd of people waiting to start a relay for life run under a large inflatable purple arch
One of the first on-field ceremonies during the Relay for Life of Thurston County is the Survivor and Caregiver Lap. Photo courtesy: Karen Waddington/Relay For Life of Thurston County

Relay For Life of Thurston County Is Set for June 2024 at North Thurston High School

Relay for Life was born in Tacoma, Washington, almost four decades ago, after Dr. Gordon “Gordy” Klatt made a grand 24-hour race around a local high school track, raising $27,000 for the American Cancer Society. Since Klatt’s initial run in 1985, Relay for Life has grown exponentially, with the Relay For Life of Thurston County launching in 1989, says Waddington. Today, Relay for Life events take place annually across the United States and internationally in over 30 countries through the Global Relay for Life.

Funds raised through Relay for Life are potentially life changing for those battling cancer or those caring for a loved one with cancer. Waddington says 81 cents of every dollar goes toward fighting cancer, and in Washington State, the American Cancer Society is currently supporting 16 research and training grants, totaling over $9.9 million, including at institutions like Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, Seattle Children’s Hospital and the University of Washington. Proceeds also bolster American Cancer Society programs like Hope Lodges, which provide housing for cancer survivors and loved ones during treatment and grants that help provide transportation for those receiving cancer treatment.

large group of people running on a track. Front people are holding a Relay for Life banner
There are many different ways to contribute to the Relay For Life of Thurston County, including through volunteering or forming a fundraising team. Photo courtesy: Karen Waddington/Relay For Life of Thurston County

Have Fun, Reflect and Support a Good Cause at Relay For Life of Thurston County

The 2024 Relay For Life of Thurston County will take place over the course of two days, from 12 p.m. on Saturday, June 22, to 10 a.m. on Sunday, June 23 at North Thurston High School. Out of over 1,200 Relay for Life events that took place across the nation in 2023, Waddington says Relay For Life of Thurston County ranked number nine in terms of fundraising.

This year’s fundraising goal for the Relay For Life of Thurston County is $450,000, and Waddington adds that there are many ways to get involved as a volunteer or attendee, from fundraising ahead of the event, to walking a lap in tribute to a loved one at the Relay for Life.

“We have a great time,” explains Waddington. “We have super fun activities throughout the day, and super fun theme laps. There’ll be a ‘Hometown Heroes’ lap, there’ll be all kinds of fun things. We just tell people, come and experience it, if you’re unsure, come find out about it.”

Relay for Life is free to attend and, in addition to events on the track, there will also be a full schedule of family-friendly festivities on the grounds, including a car show, food trucks, martial arts demonstrations, dance team performances, a frozen tee shirt challenge and more.

One of the first on-field ceremonies of the Relay is the Survivor and Caregiver Lap, which Waddington says is especially meaningful for many participants. Other key ceremonial events this year include the Fight Back Journey Walk, and the Ring the Bell ceremony, which is new this year for cancer survivors and their loved ones, to signify the end of cancer treatment. In the evening hours, the Silent Lap during the Luminara will be a serene reflection of family, friends and loved ones fighting cancer and those lost to cancer.

people running on a track with paper luminarias along it
The Silent Lap during the Luminaria will be a serene reflection, with thousands of illuminated paper bags lining the track, in honor of those battling cancer, and those lost to cancer. Photo courtesy: Karen Waddington/Relay For Life of Thurston County

Support Relay For Life of Thurston County

Waddington says a great way that individuals can get involved in preparation for the Relay is through volunteering, providing their unique skills and talents, whether that is contributing technological support, making phone calls or helping to set up at the Relay.

Local businesses are welcome to get involved as a sponsor or fundraising team. Individuals can also join together to form a fundraising team, collecting individual donations or hosting events in support of Relay for Life, and Waddington adds that teams are not pressured to raise a certain dollar amount, and that any contribution can make a great impact.

“You don’t know what that small amount will do,” says Waddington. “When we say every single dollar matters, we truly mean every single dollar matters.”

Throughout the year, fundraising teams for the Relay For Life of Thurston County create and host community, FUNdraiser events, and Waddington says attending one of these events is an opportunity for community members who may not be able to start their own fundraising group to still be involved and rally around the central goal.

This includes the upcoming 5th Annual Carryout For A Cure from the fundraising team, Honoring Fighting Surviving, that will take place on April 25 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at L&L Hawaiian Barbecue in Tumwater. Harlan’s Homes 4 Hope will conduct the third annual Paws 4 A Cause walk at Heritage Park in Olympia on May 4. Team ABC – Always Beating Cancer, will hold a Painting Party on April 21 at Board & Brush Painting in Olympia, as well as the Team ABC – Always Beating Cancer Garage Sale on May 18, in the parking area of Thurston County Title Co in downtown Olympia.

To learn more about the Relay For Life of Thurston County, volunteer opportunities or upcoming fundraising events, visit the Relay for Life of Thurston County website.

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