Many who have been involved in Relay For Life know the story. In May of 1985, Dr. Gordy Klatt, a colorectal surgeon from Tacoma, Washington, walked the track at the University of Puget Sound’s Baker Stadium for 24 hours to raise money for the American Cancer Society. During his walk, people paid $25 to walk 30 minutes with him. He had walked about 83 miles in total and raised $27,000 for cancer research. One year later, with the assistance of Pat Flynn, who was inspired after walking with Dr. Klatt the year prior, 19 teams took part in the first team Relay event at the historic Stadium Bowl and raised $33,000. From these humble beginnings, Relay For Life became the world’s largest movement to end cancer. RFL has raised around $6 Billion+ to date. Funds raised go to the following efforts: Research grants and research programs, prevention programs, community and patient support programs, detection and treatment programs, building of Hope Lodges, and fundraising.

Dr. Gordy Klatt in 1985

Events are held in countries around the world, including the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Belgium, Bermuda, France, Denmark, Guatamala, Honduras, Japan, Jaimaca, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Phillipines, Portugal, South Africa, Zambia, and the virtual world of Second Life, owned by Linden Lab.

In 2004, the first volunteer fundraiser for the American Cancer Society was held in Second Life, raising $2000. The following year, the first official Relay For Life of Second Life was held, raising $5000. Much like Doctor Klatt on that weekend in May 1985, from humble beginnings…

Since 2005 Relay For Life of Second Life has raised a little over $5 million USD for the American Cancer Society. Approximately 1300 avatars join together in a common cause. The Relay season generally runs from February thru June, but there are also ACS fundraising during the off-season. In October, many come together for Strides, and raising funds for breast cancer. In December, the Christmas Expo is held raising awareness for childhood cancer. Though it takes place in the virtual world, The American Cancer Society takes the RFL of SL’s efforts very seriously. In 2023, Relay For Life of Second Life placed 8th in the top ten Relay events in the United States, having raised $473,333. Fantasy Faire, a large event made up of SL’s fantasy role-players, musicians, and content creators, had placed 12th in the top 20 teams, having raised $119,536 last year.

On February 17, Relay For Life of Second Life started their 2024 season, with the theme “Decades Of Hope”, with the goal of $500,000 set for this year. It began with the Kick Off ceremony, after which the 145 (so far) teams began their fundraising. Donating the in world money, called lindens or L$, into an RFL kiosk, it then gets turned into actual money and sent to the American Cancer Society. Teams hold dances, contests, fashion shows, Giant Snail Races, Bid Me Bald (where the avatar has to walk around without that gorgeous hair they purchased for a certain period of time), Bid Me Human (where an animal or Furry avatar has to go as a human for a certain period of time), and even the Lindens (the staff members of Linden Lab) participate in events as well.

Events like Fantasy Faire, Strides, and The Christmas Expo are referred to as Mega Events. Other Mega Events include the SL Living Expo, a virtual home and garden showcase, and SL Fandom Con for the science fiction lover in all of us.

Relay Weekend in June is much like how a local Relay Weekend is, though locally, your Relay weekend may only be a few hours, Relay Weekend in Second Life is 24 hours, and since it’s virtual, the weather is always perfect, though your computer may experience some lag…or a lot of lag, it happens. Teams build campsites for the weekend, many of which would probably make Disney’s Imagineers pea green with envy if these builds existed outside the virtual world. There are the three ceremonies (Celebrate, Remember, Fight Back) throughout the weekend. The Celebrate Ceremony celebrates the survivors, the caregivers, and the teams. The Luminaria Ceremony is the serious portion of the weekend as names are read over Relay Radio of those we remember who we lost to cancer as well as support those currently fighting, and the Fight Back Ceremony is when the Relayers make the commitment in their plans on what they’ll do to fight cancer. It can be a rollercoaster of emotions throughout the weekend.

The American Cancer Society region is the headquarters of the ACS in Second Life. Areas located here include the RFL building, the build showcasing the Mega Events, the Memorial Garden where you can see photos of those who’ve lost their fight with cancer, and Hope Haven, where cancer survivors and caregivers meet once a month. The Relay For Life of Second Life Museum has photos and items from Relay from the last twenty years. The Relay For Life Volunteers group is always active year round. When a team needs help, others are quick to help out. When one is facing cancer, either themselves or a loved one, the group is there to support that person.

Memorial Garden On The American Cancer Society Region

There are those who still classify Second Life as a game. In some cases, that may be true. For Relay For Life of Second Life, though, it is so much more. When talking about the Relayers, I tell people that they are Tinies, Dinkies, Dragons, Unicorns, Furries, Elves, Fairies, Time Lords, Trekkers, Jedis, Steampunks, Cyberpunks, Dieselpunks, Rockers….they are also doctors, survivors, caregivers, they are people who have heard the words “You have cancer” said to them or someone they love, and they all fight for the day that those words will never be spoken, again.

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Gary DaBaum
Gary DaBaum

Gary DaBaum, DJ, writer, and all around nice guy, can be heard on When not on the air, he can be found in the virtual world of Second Life, or spoiling his grand nephew.