It was a cool evening for a hot event in Hinesville on Friday as several hundred cancer survivors and their supporters turned out for Relay for Life. The 12-hour fundraiser and celebration featured more than 250 survivors and 47 sponsored booths.
"This is the most we’ve had," Relay co-chairman Tory Baker said of the booths, whose sponsors brought in money before and during the event. "We’ve been growing and growing every year."
Attendees’ love and respect for their friends and family members was evidenced by the ring of luminarias — small paper lanterns — that encircled the track at Liberty Independent Troop Park. Baker said participants and supporters donated money for a record 700 luminarias to be included in the display.
Booth sponsors, which consisted of teams representing different churches, schools and independent groups across the county, put their heads together to come up with creative ideas to entice Relay visitors. Many booths were designed according to a game theme, using Pac-Man, LIFE and Monopoly as inspiration. They offered food and activities to help raise more funds during the celebration.
Top teams in the county Relay efforts to date include The Heritage Bank, which collected more than $8,000; Midway United Methodist Church, which collected nearly $5,000; and the Baconton Stars, at just over $4,300. Final fundraising totals are expected to be in by Monday, said American Cancer Society community manager Jessica Seagle.
Joseph Martin Elementary School went bananas for the challenge — literally. Second-grade teacher Rebecca Metivier served as the school’s "top banana" during student fundraising, which she said brought in an astonishing amount of money despite starting just three weeks ago.
"We raised between $4,000 and $5,000," Metivier said. "We sold banana-grams and jeans days and held a change drive."
Students in winning classes will receive a game day as well, and the competition brought out their best efforts, she said. "A fourth-grade class raised $1,500 alone."
Students’ efforts added up in money and admirability. One student carried $40 worth of change all the way to school — roughly 20 pounds’ worth, Metivier said. And one student’s mother offered to match what was in her son’s piggy bank, a total of $60.
Though young ones may not fully understand cancer, they do understand the impact it has. "Cancer has hit every one of those families. We sent out [more than 500] sheets for luminaria, and we got every one back," she said.
To continue the efforts at the track, Joseph Martin students and staff decorated their booth with vines and monkeys, and Metivier herself — along with a pal — dressed as bananas with such slogans as "give cancer the slip."
Joseph Martin student Kapra Powell was on hand to give more than her spare change. She volunteered to have her blond tresses cut by stylist Elisha Heard for a donation to Locks of Love.
"I almost started crying," Matthew Stephenson, Powell’s stepfather, said. "Her great-uncle passed away [from cancer] almost two years ago. We told her about it, and she wanted to do this."