Relay part of battle against cancer

ALBANY, Ga. -- The American Cancer Society's annual Relay for Life event is a lot of things.

It's an opportunity to raise money for the worthiest of causes, a chance to honor the memory of loved ones who have succumbed to cancer, a time for members of the community to come together and work for a common goal.

But, more than that, Relay for Life is a celebration, an opportunity to honor the lives of survivors who have fought the good fight against this insidious disease and managed to come out the other side.

Fifty-one teams, ranging in size from three or four members to as many as 35, will be among those gathered at the Darton College soccer field Friday to join in the celebration of the local Relay for Life event. From the crowning of "Mr. Relay" to drawings for impressive prizes to the touching luminary ceremony, Relay for Life offers up equal parts fun, hope, fellowship and the knowledge that all participants have joined in the fight against cancer.

"This is definitely a labor of love for me," local Relay co-chairperson Adrienne Wilson said. "My mother passed away 10 years ago this month, and she was always involved in Relay for Life. I just stepped in in her place and said 'put me where you need me,' and now I find myself co-chairing the event.

"We've all heard that saying about how cancer touches everyone, and it's absolutely true. Unfortunately, I've had a number of family members who've had cancer and I just learned that a dear friend of mine, a sweet, young mother, has been diagnosed. There's not a lot you can do when you get news like that, but you can pray. And you can get involved."

The goal for this year's local Relay is to collect $156,000, which will be used to pay transport fees for chemotherapy patients, to help pay for lodging at facilities such as the Hope Lodge in Atlanta for patients who must travel for treatment, to help pay for medication and to fund continuing research.

Teams' collections are currently being gathered to determine how close to the goal they've come.

"We always tend to get jittery about this time," Wilson said. "There's this question of 'Are we going to make it?' I think we're on track, which is tremendous in this economy."

Friday's Relay activities will kick off at 6 p.m. with cancer survivors -- who will be joined by caregivers -- taking the evening's first lap. Also scheduled during the evening are the luminary ceremony at 8 p.m., a "Mr. Relay" contest in which the gentleman in high heels and lady's attire who collects the most donations from the audience will be crowned, and various prize drawings throughout the night.

A 6 a.m. Saturday ceremony, held to remind all participants why Relay for Life is so important, will cap the activities.

"We'd like everyone to plan on coming out and staying through the night with us," Wilson said. "Even if you're not part of a team, it'll be a memorable night for everyone."