Salt of the Earth: Laura & Paul Zatz (by Sasha & Jack)

After you win your battle against cancer, what is next?

laura-and-paulFor Laura and Paul Zatz, you spend the next 17 years giving back to the American Cancer Society (ACS), the organization that they credit with saving Paul’s life by funding the development of the PSA test that led to his diagnosis with prostate cancer and his chance to beat it.

As Team Zuper Zatz (TZZ), Laura and Paul lead a group of volunteers who participate in the ACS’s largest fundraiser, now called the Relay for Life.

Without counting this year’s fundraising, they have raised $525,000. [Note: the ACS directs 76% of the funds raised to research and support activities like the Road to Recovery, Look Good/Feel Better program, and Hope Lodges. Its new goal is 80% by 2018]

This year, the Relay for Life will be held on April 22, from 3-11 pm at the Brookside Middle School on Shade Ave in Sarasota.

And the Zatzs have a message for you:  Join them!!!


The Relay gathers together teams of people who have raised money for the ACS. These teams come from a variety of places like high schools, churches, businesses, medical offices, the Parrotheads, and committed individuals like the Zatzs. The Relay’s aim is to put into action the ACS’s slogan: “Remember, Celebrate, Fight Back.”


During the Relay, teams send members out onto the track to do a lap or two at any pace they’d like. Every 30 minutes throughout the event, there is a themed lap: a survivor’s lap; a caretaker’s lap; a Ms. Relay contest (that Paul once won!), a “vehicle” lap of wheeled floats connected to the year’s theme, and so on. But the most striking lap of all is walking in silence the luminaria lap. This lap is preceded by a speaker or two who shares their personal story with the crowd.  Then with the lights off, the lap is walked illuminated by the glowing bags that circle the track, each labeled with a name of someone who died from or who survived cancer: “In memory of…” or “In honor of…”

This year’s theme is Movies, and Team Zuper Zatz has chosen the Wizard of Oz as their inspiration. They will decorate their 20×20 foot tent (donated to them by the Dattoli Cancer Center), will dress in various roles (petite Laura claims she’s well suited to be a munchkin!), will prepare their vehicle for its lap, and will support the other who relay by selling food (pulled pork, fries, meatballs sandwiches, cookies, coffee, etc.) and by wandering the grounds to give their support to other teams. Not surprisingly, TZZ has won the “Spirit” award several times.


As committed as they are, Paul says that it becomes tougher every year to lead the team. Their garage cabinets are stuffed with items that they use to make their floats, their signs, and host their food tent; they lead monthly team meetings and host parties; they email potential donors, attend logistical meetings, oversee a chance drawing at the relay, and recruit new members from the ranks of family, friends, new acquaintances, and former students (he was a principal; she a teacher.)

Why do they do it? Laura admits, “I’m his first passion; Relay is his second.” Paul says it’s just the right thing to do. He was raised by parents with charitable orientations, and he wants to give back in a tangible way to the organization that saved his life through early diagnosis.

The goal, Paul emphasizes, is more birthdays, and that can only happen when cancer is defeated.

Sarasota is well-known for the high number of people here who do volunteer work, but the Zatzs are Zpecial–they not only give back to their community, but they also create community as they do so.

Would you like to join them? Here’s how:

1) You can donate money. Laura and Paul encourage an easy way to collect $100. Take a 16 oz water bottle and fill it with dimes (get all your change in dimes!) You will find you’ve saved about $100 that you can then swap out and send to the ACS directly or through Team Zuper Zatz at the following website:

2)  You can join TZZ! The Zatzs are not only inspiring, but so much fun to be with. (We know; we live next door to them!). They would warmly welcome anyone who’d like to help.

3)  More teams are needed to make the Relay a success, so consider starting  your own team. Laura is willing to mentor any new team and she has expert knowledge. (We know; she is our go-to person for advice on all matters!)

4)  You can attend the April 22nd Relay: buy food, make a donation, walk the track. If you do, make sure to say hello to Laura and Paul of Team Zuper Zatz!

Meanwhile, contact Laura Zatz at:  941-358-0252  or at

[All photos provided by Laura Zatz. Thank you!]



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