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Relay for Life draws 55 teams, 500 walkers

POSTED: May 22, 2013 12:37 p.m.

Liberty County Relay for Life participants get Friday’s event started at the recreation department with the survivors’ lap.

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The 2013 Liberty County Relay for Life included 55 teams and nearly 500 participants who raised nearly $120,000, according to the American Cancer Society’s website for relay events.
The ACS, which sponsors the annual event, now is 100 years old. More than 40 million people in more than 20 countries participate in relays, which help raise local funds and awareness to fight cancer.
Liberty County’s relay took place from 7 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Saturday at the Liberty County Recreation Department. According to local chairwoman and Button Gwinnett Elementary School librarian Tory Baker, this year’s relay was one of the largest.
“We had about 150 (cancer) survivors to register online,” said Baker, who has spent four years working with the relay — two as the local chairwoman.
“Our relay committee is wonderful. We all get along and work hard together. This year is special to me because a close friend and coworker, Antonia Hofmann, recently found out she’s now cancer-free.”
Jennifer Smith, local relay fundraiser chairwoman, wore the name of the person for whom she was walking. A picture of her mother, whom she lost to lung cancer, was pinned to her orange T-shirt. She said the committee’s goal was to get all local businesses and residents involved. This was her 17th relay.
She pointed to a row of bags that lined the inside of the track. Each bag bore the name of someone whose life was cut short by cancer. Each bag also contained a candle that would become part of the luminary ceremony later that evening. Smith said the candles become a glowing tribute to those who’ve lost their battles with cancer but also support to those currently fighting cancer.
The outside of the track was lined with team tents and booths from local businesses, banks, schools and churches.
Guest speakers for the relay were Mayor Jim Thomas, himself a cancer survivor, and Col. Kevin Gregory, U.S. Army garrison commander for Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield. By 7 p.m., however, Thomas had not yet arrived, so Baker began the event by asking the color guard to kick off the ceremony. The Bradwell Institute’s Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps then presented the American flag for the Pledge of Allegiance and national anthem.
Baker told everyone that those who’ve lost their battles with cancer will not be forgotten. She added that one day, their united efforts would put an end to cancer.
“It’s not just a dream,” she said. “With your support, the American Cancer Society is saving lives right now.”
Gregory thanked the community for allowing him and Fort Stewart to be part of the relay. He said this was his first year participating in this relay, but he and his family in West Virginia participated in relays for years. He told everyone this year had special meaning for him because he recently lost his father to colon cancer. He previously lost his grandmother and two aunts to melanoma.
Each team created costumes, banners and posters that tried into this year’s theme, “Hope.” Joseph Martin Elementary School’s “Flintstones” team included Fred and Wilma Flintstone, Barney and Betty Rubble, Pebbles and a lady BamBam, a dinosaur and a stone-age car. Their banner read, “Beat Cancer into Extinction.”
St. Stephen Catholic Church fielded a team representing “Noah’s Ark,” including Mr. and Mrs. Noah and a variety of critters, though not all lined up two-by-two. South Georgia Bank included a cast of characters representing stars of the 1980s — Cyndi Lauper, Madonna, Richard Simmons, Boy George and Olivia Newton-John, while Baconton Missionary Baptist Church members dressed up as hippies from the 1960s.
The first lap was led by cancer survivors. Many walked with the help of canes, crutches and walkers, while a few were in wheelchairs. The survivors were followed by a caregivers’ lap and then the teams. Participants continued walking throughout the night until the early morning.

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