One, it is a valued fundraiser for the American Cancer Society whose march toward finding the ultimate cure for this insidious disease continues to take giant leaps with each successive year of research and community support.
Two, over the years it has become one of the most talked-about, eagerly anticipated events in our Cleveland and Bradley County hometown because it brings together families, loved ones, neighborhoods, businesses, churches, civic organizations, other nonprofits and individuals — all of whom share a common cause; each have been affected, directly or indirectly, by cancer.
Three, and here we will borrow a phrase used eloquently by Jim Rush Funeral Homes, “It’s All About Life.”
All three of the above are what Relay for Life is all about and the latter brings it home the best. Relay for Life, as its name indicates, is all about life.
Obviously, a slew of other reasons tell the story of why so many thousands in communities across America participate in Relay for Life. In Cleveland, this is the event’s 20th anniversary. To commemorate the occasion, it is returning to the Cleveland High School track which is where it began. In the past few years, it had been hosted downtown.
Of significance, too, is the American Cancer Society — which bills itself as “The Official Sponsor of Birthdays” — is sponsoring its own special day. ACS has turned 100.
Yet in the words of the organization, as published in our newspaper’s special edition published on April 26, “The 100th birthday is not a time to rest; it’s a time to get loud by taking more action. It’s a time to embark on our most ambitious crusade yet. The American Cancer Society is determined to make this cancer’s last century.”
Such declarations are a tall order.
Yet, consider these facts in the fight against cancer:
- Today, two out of every three people diagnosed with cancer in the U.S. are surviving for at least five years. In perspective, this means more than 400 people are celebrating birthdays who otherwise would have been lost to the disease.
- Cancer death rates have seen a 20 percent decline in the U.S. since the early 1990s. In perspective, that represents some 1.2 million lives.
- The American Cancer Society has played a role in nearly every cancer research breakthrough in recent history. In perspective, consider the many advancements made by cancer research over the past few decades, and now consider that the ACS has been a contributing partner in most.
- Last year alone, the ACS assisted nearly 1 million people who needed help. In perspective, these free services ranged from providing a place to stay while traveling for treatment, rides to treatment locations and back home and emotional support, among many others.
- A steadfast ACS campaign has led to a 50 percent drop in smoking since the 1960s which has contributed to the noticeable drop in lung cancer death rates. In perspective, consider your loved ones who were once chain smokers and who successfully quit. Now consider how many are still alive to share your love and your life.
Relay for Life, and those who make it possible, long for a generation ahead when a young child — while reading from a history book — will look to a mom or a dad and ask, “What was cancer?”
That day is not yet here. But one day it will be.
Until then, we urge all to plan to attend some part of this year’s Relay for Life at Cleveland High School. It gets underway Friday at 7 p.m. People can begin buying luminaries at 5. The first music act performs at 6:30.
It’s about celebrating. It’s about remembering. It’s about fighting back.
But most of all, it’s about life.