A small act ó a simple walk ó envisioned by a Tacoma, Wash., surgeon to raise funds for the fight against cancer has blossomed into a global endeavor, and one example of how that has happened will be evident at Gordon Wood Stadium Friday night and Saturday morning.

The American Cancer Societyís Relay for Life will be held in Brown County from late Friday afternoon until early Saturday morning. The hundreds of walkers, runners, supporters and volunteers participating will be joining similar relays held at various times throughout America and in 21 other countries, involving 3 million people who have raised more than $1.5 billion, according to the societyís Web site.

In May 1985, Dr. Gordy Klatt, a colorectal surgeon and avid runner, began his solo 24-hour walk and run around a track in Tacoma. By the time he was finished, he had clocked 83 miles, raising $27,000. The following year, 220 supporters on 19 teams joined Dr. Klatt in this overnight event, and the American Cancer Society Relay For Life was born.

It was about a decade later that the idea caught on in Brownwood, and it has been embraced by the community to a point where the cancer societyís area representative from Abilene described it as the best Relay in his region.

The Relay gives everyone an opportunity to become involved in the fight against cancer. If people canít walk or run tonight, they can support those who do. Or they can honor and remember family members and friends who have faced the disease. Children, young adults, baby boomers and senior citizens can all play an important role.

Teams come from businesses, clubs, families, friends, hospitals, churches, schools and service organizations. Members of those teams share a common purpose their support the American Cancer Society's mission and the elimination of cancer as the major medical threat which it continues to be.

The people who participate in Relay For Life, as well as those who attend and support those walking and running, have a good time. But they never lose sight of the Relayís serious purpose and itís primary function as a fund-raising event.

However, Relay for Life is much more than just a one-night stand. Volunteer leaders have been busy since the first of the year planning and preparing for this event. Teams have been raising funds for weeks, if not months, with bake sales, yard sales, contests, raffles and other activities. All the proceeds benefit the Relay for Lifeís work in support of cancer prevention and research.

If there is a person in the United States who does not have a relative or friend whose life has not been touched by cancer, that person is indeed fortunate ó and very unique.

The good news is that many of those people who have faced such a diagnosis are now counted as long-term survivors, thanks to advances in modern medicine and treatments. Many of those would not have had the same happy outcome without new medications and treatments, but the ultimate breakthrough continues to elude researchers. Thatís the goal volunteers and supporters of Relay for Life hope to see, and it canít be achieved soon enough.

This is a campaign that should resonate in the minds of every member of the community, and because of that, itís a campaign that merits of the enthusiastic support of the entire community.

Brownwood Bulletin