Cancer survivors, caregivers and community members turned out in droves Friday evening to support the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life at the Liberty County Recreation Department track.
Karen Bell, the 2014 Liberty County Relay for Life committee chair, said she was pleased with both the show of support from the community and this year’s committee’s performance.
“It’s never a single-person effort — it takes a committed team, and we have a great committee this year,” Bell said.
According to the ACS website, 47 teams and 420 participants helped raise more than $76,000 to support research and raise cancer awareness.
Committee member Elizabeth Mullis explained that teams fundraise all year. On the day of the relay, the teams set up mini camp-sites around the track, from which they continue to raise funds by selling food or sponsoring games. At least one team member continuously walks the track throughout the course of the event, which runs from 7 p.m. Friday until 5 a.m. Saturday
Bell kicked off the opening ceremony by welcoming Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas and Fort Stewart Garrison Commander Col. Kevin Gregory.
“I just want to say that this event is all about the survivors and all about winning the fight,” Thomas said. “I want to encourage Hinesville to continue to fight so that we can beat cancer.”
In keeping with Relay for Life tradition, the opening ceremony was followed by the survivors’ lap. Among the cancer survivors making this initial pass around the track was Rick Davis, a 17-year testicular-cancer survivor.
“I just woke up one day and there it was,” Davis said of the disease. “I was lucky — I only needed 18 radiation treatments.”
Davis, who recently relocated to Hinesville from Tulsa, Okla., said that though this was his first year participating in Liberty County’s Relay For Life, he has taken part in the event elsewhere in previous years.
The Battlefighters, a local team that raised more than $13,000 this year, was formed in 1994 by Marion Carter.
“That first year, we were the ‘Von Tracks,’” Carter said with a smile.
The team adopted the name Battlefighters a few years later, in honor of then-3rd ID commander Lt. Gen. Glenn Webster’s wife, Kimberly Webster, who battled cancer.
“There was a picture of Gen. Webster and his troops from overseas during Desert Storm, and they had a big banner that said ‘Battlefighters’ across it,” explained Joel Blanks, husband of team captain Janet Blanks. “From that moment, our team became the Battlefighters, and that’s what we’ve been ever since.”
According to the ACS website, the Relay for Life takes place in more than 5,200 communities and 20 countries worldwide and raises more than $400 million each year. These funds then are used to continue cancer research and to provide information and services to cancer patients and caregivers.
To learn more about the American Cancer Society or the Relay for Life, go to www.relayforlife.org.