Middle Tennessee to host Relay for Life, April 19-20

Event runs 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. at Dean Hayes Track and Soccer Stadium

April 16, 2013 · @MTAthletics

"The journey to end cancer starts with a single step."

These are the first words you read when looking into Relay for Life, and at Middle Tennessee, perhaps it's fitting that a track athlete, Amber Jackson, has taken those words to heart to start the MT Relay for Life event, April 19-20.

Jackson begins each track race with a single step, and, along with several hundred other participants, will take several this weekend at the Dean Hayes Track and Soccer Stadium, raising money for cancer research at the American Cancer Society.

Jackson arrived on campus in fall of 2009, and couldn't understand why MT had never hosted a Relay for Life event.

"We had it at my high school, and when I got here, I couldn't believe the largest undergraduate school in the state didn't have one," Jackson said. "I did some research, and found out that almost every college in Tennessee has one, so I knew I wanted to start it here."

Relay for Life began in Tacoma, Washington in May of 1985. Dr. Gordy Klatt, a colorectal surgeon, wanted to raise money for the local American Cancer Society office in Tacoma. To do this, he decided to spend 24 hours on the Baker Stadium track at the University of Puget Sound, running and walking non-stop. Throughout the 83 miles that Klatt traveled that night, friends donated money to walk or run with him. He raised $27,000 to fight cancer that first year.

In 1986, Klatt decided to make his mission a team event and the "City of Destiny Classic 24-Hour Run Against Cancer" was started. Nineteen teams participated in that first event raising $33,000, and both numbers have grown ever since.

Since 1986, that original gathering has turned into over 5,200 events across the country, and spawned a new name, "Relay for Life." Also, the event has been picked up overseas to help the battle against cancer grow around the world. And after 28 years of raising money, the event now has a home in Murfreesboro.

The night will start with a "Survivors Lap." This is for all the cancer survivors in attendance to walk one lap being cheered on by all the other attendees. After dark, a Luminaria Ceremony will take place. This is where candles are lit inside paper bags to remember those who've been lost to cancer, and those who continue to fight the disease. The bags are placed around the track so the participants walk around them throughout the night.

There will be several teams participating in the event, and each team will make a baton, much like in the sport of track and field. The baton must be carried around the track at all times during the event by at least one participant. But that participant can run or walk at whatever speed they would like, and for as long as they would like.

There is also a "Fight Back Ceremony" during the event that symbolizes the commitment each person can make in the fight against cancer.

Taken from Relay for Life's web site, the event is "your opportunity to not only honor cancer survivors and remember loved ones lost, but also to raise awareness about what we can do to stay well from cancer and raise money to fuel the world's largest walk to end cancer."

Those who want to learn more about MTSU's Relay for Life can visit www.relayforlife.org/mtsu, or click here.

* Historical information taken from www.relayforlife.org

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