Relay For Life is the signature fundraising event of the American Cancer Society. It began in Tacoma, Washington in 1985, as Dr. Gordy Klatt walked the track at Baker Stadium at the University of Puget Sound for 24 hours, raising $27,000 for cancer research. After that event, Dr. Klatt thought how other people could hold similar events in their community. From there, Relay For Life was born. Today, Relay For Life is held in more than 5600 communities and in more than 23 countries outside the U.S.
In 2005, Relay For Life stepped into the virtual world, and the online community Second Life hosted its first virtual fundraising. That year, $5,000 USD was raised for the American Cancer Society. Today, Relay For Life of Second Life is the largest virtual fundraising event in the world. In 2011, it had achieved the goal of having raised $1,000,000 since 2005. In 2013, it passed the $2 million milestone by its closing ceremonies. In 2014, after raising $420,000 that year, it was recognized as the 17th largest Relay event in the world.
While some of RFL of SL is totally different from Relays in, say, your neighborhood (team campsites, for example, would make Disney Imagineers pea green with envy), there are some very important similarities. Behind each avatar, is a real human, who’s life is somehow touched by cancer, and is striving to bring an end to it. There’s also the 24 hour walk along the virtual track in July.
Most recently, it was announced that Relay For Life of Second Life had reached the $3 million mark. All of this, accomplished through fundraising in a virtual world, converting the inworld money, known as lindens, to US dollars, as well as assistance from online donations from the Relayer’s friends and family outside of Second Life.
Under my avatar name, Fuzzball Ortega, I’ve been an active Relayer since 2008. I’ve served on the committee, have been captain of a team, DJ’d a few other team events as well as a set during the big weekend in July. And, yes, I’ve used my broadcasts on Krypton Radio to give updates and promote Relay For Life of Second Life. I’m very proud to be affiliated with the group.
A few members of the virtual group were asked about their reaction regarding the milestone reached, SL names are being used. From T1 Radio, the official RFL of SL broadcast station, Trader Whiplash and Nuala Maracas, who is also the RFL of SL Event Chair for 2017, and Random Darrow, RFL of SL Event Chair for 2015 and 2016.
How long have you been involved in Relay For Life of Second Life?
Trader Whiplash: Since the very beginning in 2005. We had heard about Relay from Alliez Mysterio and started to fundraise… along came Jade Lily and told us we needed a team and had to use a Kiosk. The rest is history!
Nuala Maracas: I have been with Relay For Life of Second Life since 2005. This will be my 13th virtual Relay. Lucky # 13
Random Darrow: This is my 10th year of volunteering in RFL of SL
What is your reaction regarding Relay For Life of Second Life having raised three million dollars since 2005?
Trader Whiplash: It is very exciting! To realize that we can make such a contribution to supporting the ACS!
Nuala Maracas: It is phenomenal. Every relayer, sponsor, supporter, survivor, caregiver should be celebrating. It was YOUR efforts that have gotten us to this milestone celebration.
Random Darrow: My reaction is that Dr Gordy Klatt who founded RFL had a vision to walk a track in support of the ACS. He saw that vision grow world wide. However, I imagine his vision never dreamed of a virtual Relay reaching 3 Million Dollars! I think it is fantastic! It just shows that nothing is impossible.
Relay For Life of Second Life reached it’s first million in 2011. In 2013, it reached the two million mark. In 2014, it became the 17th largest Relay event in the world. In the time that you’ve been involved in RFL of SL, did you ever think that these and other record breaking goals would be achieved in the time that they’ve happened?
Trader Whiplash: Perhaps not at first. In 2005 we raised $5000 and that seemed like a great effort. As we raised more and more each year we began to realize the potential of our community and it became obvious we could see these and greater totals. I firmly believe that our Relay, if we use all the tools available to us could become one of the largest in the word. We can raise $1million every year!
Nuala Maracas: I think for the first few years, no one really saw a million US dollars in sight. It was not thought of. We didn’t think beyond raising a bit more than the year before. Then someone added up the numbers and ….Oh my gosh!! We are going to reach One Million Dollars! The Relayers were so excited and proud! After we hit One Million, it was no stopping us. We did not look at increments of $200,000 anymore, or trying to beat the total from the year before. Our goals as $2 Million! When we raised another million in a little over 2 and a half years and sailed on by that $2 Million, our sights were on $3 Million. As soon as we announced in our Relay community that we had reached $3 Million US dollars, our fantastic relayers said, “Congratulations everyone, $4 Million here we come!”
In your personal opinion, what sets Relay For Life of Second Life a few pegs above other Relay For Life events?
Trader Whiplash: I Relay in both virtual and organic worlds. RFL of SL has a distinct advantage of being able to communicate directly with every member of every team in real-time As a leader of my local Relay I have to constantly remind myself I can not just send a group message. Events can be and are held 24/7 throughout the season. Relayers not only can fund raise in SL but can reach out to their friends and family as well. No other relay has that ability and as such it provides us with so many more opportunities to support the Society
Nuala Maracas: The creativity – where else can you find a dragon walking a relay track or a full scale castle firing off cannons? The Global Aspect – Our relay is made up of individual relayers from around the world. People from Israel, Australia, Japan, Germany, Brazil, Canada, The Netherlands, Belgium, South Africa and many more countries, have relay teams and we fundraise as one community. And the Accessibility – For some this is the only option they have to participate in a relay due to health or physical reason.
Random Darrow: I went to my first Real life Relay this year. I was very surprised at the lack of the WOW factor. RFL of SL is limitless with creativity. The number of volunteers coming together in a virtual world coming from all over the globe. The bonding of the Relayers and the true inspiration that RFL of SL brings to the community is unsurpassed.
Other than more records being broken, what are you looking forward to in the upcoming Relay season?
Trader Whiplash: This year I am looking forward to seeing new faces and new teams take the lead in making Passport to Hope another record year! I look forward to working with my team to help new and old teams alike reach their goals and potential!
Nuala Maracas: Breaking the box! We have so many great surprise lined up for Relayers this year. Fantastic technology twists, revamped and new awards, a brand new E-Revenue site, lots of fun, and so much more. I am really looking forward to see how the relay teams meet the challenge of Breaking The Box with their fundraising events.
Random Darrow: Each year we see more and more people becoming involved with Relay. Meeting new teams and new volunteers and seeing the passion bloom within them as they experience RFL of SL is very exciting!
Kickoff for the fundraising season of Relay For Life of Second Life for 2017 is March 5. The theme is Passport To Hope.
Relay For Life of Second Life’s official website is http://www.relayforlifeofsecondlife.org. You can also email Nuala Maracas at email@example.com if you’re interested in learning more.
For more than 100 years, the American Cancer Society (ACS) has worked relentlessly to save lives and create a world with less cancer and more birthdays.