History of Global Relay For Life

The Global Relay For Life movement started because of one person. In May 1985, Dr. Gordon “Gordy” Klatt walked and ran for 24 hours around a track in Tacoma, Washington, USA, raising money to help the American Cancer Society with the nation’s biggest health concern: cancer.

Friends, family, and patients watched and supported him as he walked and ran more than 83.6 miles and raised $27,000 through pledges to help save lives from cancer. As he circled the track, he thought of how he could get others to take part. He envisioned having teams participate in a 24-hour fundraising event. The next year, 19 teams were part of the first Relay For Life event at the historical Stadium Bowl and raised $33,000.

Dr. Gordy’s vision grew throughout the United States becoming the American Cancer Society’s premier fundraising event. In only 10 years, Relay For Life started receiving attention across the world and the Global Relay For Life movement began. In 1997, the United Kingdom held the first ever Global Relay For Life in Portsmouth UK, supporting Cancer Research UK.


The Global Relay For Life movement now unites 35 partnering countries in one shared mission: to find a cure for cancer and support patients and their families through their journey. Global Relay For Life also gives cancer organizations around the world a platform to increase their visibility and generate cancer awareness within their country. The movement continues to grow and unite more countries as the fight against cancer rages on.


As a network of national cancer charities, not only do we connect and learn through Relay For Life, we collaborate and share across a range of topics, supporting each other in the challenges we face on our shared journey. Global Relay For Life provides a unique opportunity for event participants to connect across this truly global event with over 3000 communities participating across all continents. For more information, email [email protected].

Global Heroes of Hope

The Global Relay For Life Heroes of Hope Program profiles cancer survivors and caregivers whose work exemplifies the mission of their cancer organization and Relay For Life. Heroes of Hope inspire hope, courage, and determination in the fight to eliminate cancer. They display a resilient attitude and inspire others to choose a proactive and positive stance on cancer survivorship.

As ambassadors of their country’s cancer organization, Heroes of Hope inspire other survivors & caregivers and expand the bounds of cancer survivorship. These volunteers lead in growing their country’s Relay For Life, increase participation, and encourage others to take action and fight against cancer.

For more information or to request a Global Hero of Hope to speak at your event, email [email protected].

"Everyone is experiencing cancer differently. There are so many people out there that don't know that there are others who can help them or that there are resources available to them. That's where we, as a global community, can step up and say "Hey, we can help you with this!" Since being a part of the global community, I have learned so much from my fellow Relayers and have met so many people that have been going through the same as me."
Freda Botha
South Africa

Our Global Relay For Life Partners

“My fondest memory is the candle ceremony in 2013 where I got to tell the story of my team during the candle ceremony. It was very emotional but necessary for the whole team to deal with Nela, our dear friends’, death. Every year, friends and family of Nele come to our event in Hasselt to commemorate her! This was a quote from her in 2012 : “For me, RFL was the party of the year! A tsunami of warmth, support, courage, strength, love, friendship, connection and togetherness. This party gave me a boost from here to Tokyo! For her and other fellow survivors, we just keep on going! Because alone you run faster but together we run further.”
Chris Vanbockrijck
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