Cancer survivors wallk together at the start of a previous American Cancer Society Relay for Life at Darton College. The 2012 event will begin Friday night at Darton.
ALBANY -- The Relay for Life event set for Friday evening at Darton College is off to a good start, with 602 participants signed up and $76,934 raised as of Wednesday afternoon, the event's website indicated.
The relay will take place from 6 p.m. Friday through 6 a.m. Saturday, officials coordinating the event say. The funds raised will stay in Southwest Georgia for cancer patient outreach as well as cancer research, officials say.
Kathy Culbreth, the event's committee chair, said mayors from both Albany and Leesburg would be in attendance to cut the survivors ribbon. The opening ceremony will be at 6 p.m., as will the survivors lap.
Amongst the campsites will be entertainment, including the Albany Panthers band, the committee chair said.
After the survivors lap, there will be a caregivers lap in honor of those who assisted their loved ones while they were battling cancer, Culbreth said.
"They (the survivors) will get to clap for their caregivers and send out messages to them," Culbreth said.
Once the sun goes down, there will be a luminaria ceremony. There will be lighted bags around the track, and participants will get to chose between glow balloons and torches.
At the ceremony, the balloons will be released and the torches will be lit, Culbreth said.
In the bags around the track, there has usually been sand. This year, officials are trying something else.
"(Area schools) have been collecting canned goods," Culbreth said. "We will have the goods in the bags, and they will be picked up (to go to) Second Harvest (of South Georgia)."
There will also be a "Mr. Relay" contest. This will be conducted like the Miss America pageant, which means men will get the opportunity to dress as women, display a talent as well as collect donations toward the cause.
At the end, there will be a crowning ceremony, Culbreth said.
While that is ongoing, there will be a "Kids Zone" set up for children's entertainment and games. In addition, a "Survivors Choice Award" will be given out to whichever campsite the survivors at the event choose, Culbreth said.
There will also be an Iron Chef contest taking place following the caregivers lap, after which officials will prepare for the Mr. Relay Contest. Winners will be announced after the luminaria ceremony, Culbreth said.
As of 4 p.m. Wednesday, there were 602 participants, 71 teams formed and $76,934 raised going into the event. Along with individual teams raising funds, there are several restaurants in the area that have donated 10 percent of what they earned on a particular night to Relay for Life.
The goal this year was to have 55 teams, and raise $170,000.
Aside from saving lives, officials say the process of raising funds makes for good fellowship opportunities. Based on the figures so far, officials indicated Wednesday things are looking good going into the relay.
"We have never had 71 teams before," Culbreth said.
Culbreth, who has lost a brother as well as two in-laws to cancer, said the ceremony has potential to change your perspective on things.
"We are all together to celebrate more birthdays," she said. "This makes it so important to celebrate (these birthdays), especially with younger people being (impacted by cancer)."
Those that have yet to register or form teams may still do so at the event, as well as purchase a luminaria. Survivor parking passes that were not picked up at the pre-event dinner can contact the American Cancer Society office located on Pine Avenue.
For more information, visit www.relayforlife.org.