Relay for Life to raise funds for American Cancer Society on June 8

The event will take place from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. at Penn Community Bank Amphitheater

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

Making a difference: On June 8, the 20th Relay for Life Bensalem will be held at Penn Community Bank Amphitheater. All proceeds will benefit the American Cancer Society. To date, Bensalem has raised more than $1.5 million through the event. Source: American Cancer Society Relay for Life

In May 1985, Dr. Gordon “Gordy” Klatt had a mission. He wanted to raise awareness of the singular disease that impacts nearly every human life — cancer.

On a track at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington, Klatt spent an exhausting 24 hours walking and running more than 83.6 miles. Through pledges from friends, family and patients, he raised $27,000 for the American Cancer Society. After seeing such adamant support for his cause, Klatt knew he had started a movement. The following year, 19 teams joined him in the first Relay for Life at the Stadium Bowl. A total of $33,000 was raised.

Though Klatt passed away from heart failure on Aug. 3, 2014, at the age of 71, his legacy lives on. Currently, annual Relay for Life events are held globally, bringing together more than 4 million people to celebrate those who have battled cancer, remember loved ones who passed away, and fight back against the disease that affects one in three people.

On Saturday, June 8, the 20th Relay for Life Bensalem will be held from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. at Penn Community Bank Amphitheater. All proceeds will benefit the American Cancer Society, an organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem. To date, Bensalem has raised more than $1.5 million through the event.

The day begins with an opening ceremony and greetings by elected officials. All survivors and caregivers are then invited to take the first lap as the crowd cheers them on. Once Relay is in full swing, teammates take turns walking a designated path to symbolize the ongoing fight against cancer.

Between laps, attendees can visit the booths of vendors, enjoy food and entertainment, purchase raffle tickets for prizes, and, for the kids, take part in the Small Fry Triathlon. At dusk, Relay features a touching luminaria ceremony, during which all who have battled cancer are celebrated and remembered as illuminated bags are held up to the sky.

“The whole premise behind Relay is, it’s a community that takes up a site. That was the original tagline by Gordon Klatt,” explained Tracy Humbert, a member of the event’s leadership team. “He wanted it to be the whole community.”

According to Humbert, the 20th anniversary is serving as a “reboot” for the local Relay, which was previously held at Bensalem High School and lasted 24 hours.

“At the beginning, there was a small group of us that we called the ‘Change Champions.’ Our event, when we came to Bensalem High School, we probably had 50 teams and close to 1,000 participants. Over the years, we’ve seen it drastically drop off, and we decided we needed to make a big change if our event was going to continue,” she said. “We wanted to do something to kickstart it and kickstart us because we had been doing it for so long. Our enthusiasm had even waned, so it’s nice to have a new venue and things we don’t know. It’s rejuvenated our whole committee.”

When Humbert approached Amanda McDonald, general manager of Penn Community Bank Amphitheater and community affairs manager for Bensalem Township, about bringing relay to PCBA, it was a no-brainer.

Last June, McDonald was diagnosed with breast cancer, and underwent a double mastectomy over the summer.

“There was no hesitation at all. ‘Yes’ was the immediate answer. I could think of no better way for me to get involved in something that I had wanted to get involved in anyway once I came back around to my ‘normal life,’ whatever that is,” McDonald said. “I immediately jumped at the opportunity to help them out with this.”

Humbert stressed that pre-registration is not required, and there is no fundraising requirement for teams who wish to participate. Her only hope is that people come out to see what Relay is all about. Since its inception, Relay has been a highly-anticipated tradition for Humbert and her children, ages 18 and 19.

“When they were little, Relay was better than Christmas. That’s how much this means to them. It’s a really special event,” she said. “The majority of the day is a celebration. See what it’s like when a community comes together to support a cause. We need the community to come together and get rid of this disease.” ••

If you go…

The 20th annual Relay for Life Bensalem takes place Saturday, June 8, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. at Penn Community Bank Amphitheater, 2400 Byberry Road, Bensalem.

For more information, visit facebook.com/RelayBensalem/ or main.acsevents.org/site/TR?pg=entry&fr_id=92401

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com