Praise the volunteers!!!
That certainly is a thought that is very important to the American Cancer Society during this annual celebration of National Volunteer Week. After all, we have millions of volunteers in thousands of communities nationwide, and even some throughout the world.
Without our volunteers, the Society—as well as thousands of other schools, churches and other organizations—could not support our core mission, let alone survive. We are fortunate to have many wonderful people throughout this nation who are devoted to our cause. They are what makes the American Cancer Society such a special place for so many of us, volunteers and employees alike.
Volunteers often labor for hours with little recognition. They do what they do from the goodness of their hearts and their belief in a cause. They offer their time and their skills because they want to make a difference, help someone who needs help, offer comfort to others in their time of need.
It so happens that this year’s National Volunteer Week coincides with another anniversary that that the American Cancer Society is celebrating: our 25th anniversary of Relay for Life.
Within that celebration is perhaps one of the ultimate stories about how one volunteer can make a difference, and how one person with an idea can impact the lives of millions for years to come—both cancer survivors and those whose volunteer their time and skill to support those survivors and the mission of the American Cancer Society.
The story is one that is well known to many of us active in the Society, but perhaps not as well known outside the organization.
Dr. Gordy Klatt is a colorectal surgeon in Tacoma, Washington. 25 years ago, Dr. Klatt decided that he wanted to raise money for the American Cancer Society by walking and running around a track for 24 hours.
25 years later, Dr. Klatt’s idea has endured as the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, arguably one of the most successful volunteer efforts in the world.
Here are the numbers:
- Since that first event in 1985, Relay has raised approximately $3 billion, making it the largest global fundraising event of its kind.
- Since 1985, more than 45,000 Relay events have been held in the United States.
- In 1996, Relay For Life expanded beyond the United States’ borders, and it now takes place in 19 other countries, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Japan, Luxembourg, Malaysia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the Philippines, Portugal, South Africa, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom. In many countries, Relay has helped open the dialogue about cancer.
- In 2008, Relay For Life raised $409 million for the fight against cancer. Those funds support the American Cancer Society’s mission to save lives by helping people stay well, helping people get well, by finding cures, and by fighting back.
- Nearly 5,000 community Relay For Life events took place in 2008. The largest Relay For Life takes place in Gwinnett County, Ga., a suburb of Atlanta.
- More than 3.5 million people took part in Relay events in 2008 – that means 1 in every 100 Americans is a Relay participant.
- In 2008, more than 500,000 cancer survivors took part in Relay For Life.
- A total of 432 college campus events were held in 2008. These events raised $19.8 million.
- Nearly 2.6 million people have visited RelayForLife.org to learn more about the event, sign up as part of a Relay team, and share information with other Relay participants worldwide.
- In 2005, Relay For Life entered the interactive online community Second Life, and in 2008, the event raised a record-$215,000, while engaging with people around the world who otherwise might not have participated in a Relay event.
Those are, my friends, some amazing numbers. And it is all the result of people like you who take the time to volunteer on behalf of the Society, and make it happen.
There are stories like this throughout the nation. We all know volunteer organizations like the American Cancer Society, the American Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity and so many other worthy causes. We all know our churches and our schools, our homeless shelter programs, our efforts to feed the hungry, to care for the homebound and elderly, to provide shelter for animals, to provide safety from domestic violence. And there are so many more volunteer efforts that we don’t know about, yet go about their business every day, doing good helping others.
All of us can take pride in what we do for our communities and our neighbors through volunteering. Not all of us will see our ideas grow like Dr. Klatt. But every one of us has within us the power to touch the soul of another, perhaps directly, perhaps from afar.
Despite our troubles these days, each of us in a way is very blessed to live in a land of relative plenty. To be able to give back—even in a time of our own personal need—is perhaps one of the noblest goals of all.
To all of our American Cancer Society volunteers, and to all of you who volunteer in whatever way you choose, from our hearts to yours, thank you for everything that you do every day. We are all blessed for your efforts.