‘Everyone Can Do Something’

Story by Tabatha Duvall

In 1985, Dr. Gordon Klatt, a Tacoma, Wash., surgeon, realized there was a need to raise more money for his local American Cancer Society. That year, Dr. Klatt, a marathon runner, circled a local track for 24 hours, and the Relay for Life was born. That first Relay raised $27,000 for his local ACS office.

Since then, the Relay for Life has become the most recognizable fundraising event for ACS spreading all across the United States and 19 other countries. The Pope and Yell counties area have held a local Relay for the past 16 years, and it has become one of the largest in the state of Arkansas.

Linda Wooten and Johnna Walker, this year’s event co-chairs, have been able to witness the growth of the Relay for several years. Wooten first served as a team captain in 1998 and became the chair of accounting the next year. She is now also volunteering on the state level by co-chairing the Relay For Life State Leadership Council and the Mid-South Division Relay Advisory Team.

Walker joined as chair of publicity in 2008 after a committee member and good friend, Jock Davis, asked her to join, and has been an active member of the committee since.

“The success of the local Relay is due to some really dedicated ACS staff members and volunteers,” said Walker. “When I learned how many years some individuals have been involved with this event I was surprised. Relay For Life is personal to a lot of people.” Walker and Wooten included.

Just months before her wedding in 1986, Wooten’s father passed away from prostate cancer, and weeks after announcing her pregnancy, her mother-in- law lost her battle with melanoma.

“My son never knew two of his grandparents because of cancer, so when I was asked to get involved I couldn’t say no.”

Within a year of becoming involved with Relay, Walker’s mother was diagnosed with lung cancer, and is now battling ovarian cancer.

Experiences like theirs are the reason Wooten and Walker relay. During Walker’s second year, she used a golf cart to help participants bring their things into the stadium, and helping the survivors who attend gave her a chance to learn more about their stories, and she said it was one of the most fulfilling things she could have done.

“I found lots of people who were bringing their parents, and in one case their child, who were survivors… this gave me a chance to chat with them and I took away so much from their positive attitudes.”

To Wooten, the Relay gives these survivors, and those who are battling this disease as a patient, caregiver, friend or family member, the one thing they need the most: Hope. She said, “Relay gives us the opportunity to celebrate the lives of those who have battled cancer, remember those loved ones we have lost, and support the Cancer Society’s life saving mission of fighting back against a disease that has taken too much.”

The Relay For Life of Pope and Yell counties is May 11th and 12th, 2012 at Cyclone Stadium at Russellville High School. The event will be 24 hours, from 5 p.m. to 5 p.m., signifying the darkness of a cancer diagnosis to the sunrise of hope of a cure and celebration of remission. At Relay, volunteers and participants gather to help raise money to find a cure.

Everyone has a different role and different story, but every one of them is just as important. As Walker said, “No one can do everything, but everyone can do something.”

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