THE POWER OF ONE

One person can make a difference – it is true – it is fact.

In an effort to raise money for the local American Cancer Society office in Tacoma and to show support for all of his patients who had battled cancer, in 1985 Dr. Gordy Klatt spent 24 hours circling the track at Baker Stadium for a total of more than 83 miles while friends, family and patients watched. Throughout the night, people donated $25 each to run or walk the course with him for 30 minutes, and the Relay for Life was born.

Twenty-seven years later, once again a lone individual has seen the need to make a change and make a difference.

Realizing that many Jewish supporters were restricted from the annual Relay because it was held on Shabbat, past president of Temple Beth Tikvah Sheryl Blechner – with the support and encouragement of Steve Gerson, current TBT president, and Esther Shultz, a Beth Tikvah member and part of the Relay of Life Roswell Steering Committee – approached the American Cancer Society with the idea of a separate relay that would consider and respect the needs of those in the Jewish community who could not participate without compromising their religious beliefs.

After four months of research and due diligence, it was determined that there was no precedent for this anywhere in the world, and thus the Relay for Life Ruach Atlanta was born. Ruach (Hebrew for “spirit”) is the very essence of what the relay is about; it is about life, survival and remembrance.

Blechner approached the American Cancer Society with a three-year plan. Years One and Two would incorporate the 12 congregations north of the Chattahoochee, while Year Three would see the event move to a larger venue and include the entire Jewish community.

The inaugural Steering Committee will include representatives from Temple Beth Tikvah, Temple Kol Emeth, Congregation Ner Tamid and Congregation Etz Chaim. The kick-off for this ambitious event will be on Oct. 14, 2012 from 1 p.m. to dusk and, in keeping with the integrity of the original, will maintain the key components of the Relay: an opening ceremony, a Survivor Walk and Survivor Dinner.

With a participant goal of 20 teams of 10 and a financial goal of $30,000, the Relay of Ruach Atlanta is destined to be the beginning of a tradition around the world.

 

By Marsha Mathis

For The Atlanta Jewish Times