ALBANY, Ga. -- Just about everyone in the Albany area has heard of Ward Wright, son of Dr. Tom Wright and Maranda Wright of Albany, a child who battled neuroblastoma for 18 months before being declared in remission just a few months ago.
It's a story that has captivated Southwest Georgia, which is why Ward, now 5, and his family will be the honorees at the 2011 HOPE Ball -- an event aimed at raising funds for cancer programs -- on Saturday.
"We just feel that cancer touches everyone. There are even (HOPE Ball) committee members fighting the battle now," said Glenda Rambo, the committee's chair. "One of the committee members suggested Ward. Everyone knows of him because of the ("Pray for Ward") signs, and I actually met his mom at a church event.
"All of those things led to (the Wright family) being selected as honorees."
Rambo, a 10-year survivor of thyroid cancer herself, said the Wright family was also chosen to give a different perspective on the impact cancer has.
"In the past, we have honored adults and doctors," she said. "This year, we wanted to focus on the caregiver. That's why we wanted to honor the family.
"We also wanted to get the perspective of (juvenile) cancer."
The black-tie optional event, now in its fourth year, will begin with cocktails at the Hilton Garden Inn. Dinner, dancing, silent and live auctions will start at 7:30 p.m.
"I can't imagine that anyone strives to be the 'face of cancer' or an 'icon' of the disease, but considering that cancer has so greatly impacted our lives, we have made it a personal mission to be an advocate for our son and other victims of this dreaded disease," said Maranda Wright. "Therefore, it is a great privilege to be the 2011 ACS HOPE Ball honorees. The event will serve as a platform to advocate for those who will follow in our footsteps and will allow each in attendance to leave his or her mark on the lives of those who will benefit from present and future cancer research.
"The American Cancer Society's Hope Ball is such a worthy cause because the funds raised from this event will benefit patients of all ages with every type of cancer. (The American Cancer Society) is not partial to one type of cancer or area of research but allocates funds to experienced professionals with cutting-edge ideas and proposals that will offer the greatest benefit to all patients."
The Hollywood Band from Macon will be providing music for the evening. Reservations are $100 per person, which includes wine with dinner.
Some of the items on the auction block include a week for up to eight people on a 74-foot yacht on the Turkish coast, a bat and ball signed by Buster Posey, a guitar signed by Dallas Davidson, beach and mountain vacations, canoe trips along the Flint River and local artwork.
Last year's event, which honored cancer survivor Wyatt Mitchell and radiation oncologist Dr. Terry Kraus, attracted 300 people and raised $48,675 -- a record in HOPE Ball history.
"With our economy the way it is, we are hoping to reach the same (amount)," Rambo said. "We'll be pleased if we meet what we did last year.
"(The goal) is to make people in the community more aware of what the American Cancer Society does. The Cancer Society funds so many clinical trials and research. It helps us locally."
While last year's amount would be great for the ACS, there is actually a specific number the organization has in mind.
"Our goal is to raise $50,000," said Kathy Furney, community manager with ACS. "This evening is so special as we are not just raising money to help fight cancer, but we are actually celebrating a precious child's victory over stage-four cancer. We normally hear from a cancer survivor as they share their personal journey. This year we wanted to hear from a different perspective, such as a caregiver's standpoint. We thought who better than a mother?
"Everyone is familiar with Ward, and now that he is cancer-free, what better way to celebrate his life and victory over cancer than with the HOPE Ball?"
Those wishing to purchase tickets should call the ACS at (229) 446-1073.