Relay for Life starts Friday

The American Cancer Relay for Life starts Friday

This year’s Relay for Life will be held Friday at Albany’s Exchange Club Fairgrounds. The theme for this year’s event is “There’s Nothing Sweeter Than a Cure.” (File photo)

This year’s Relay for Life will be held Friday at Albany’s Exchange Club Fairgrounds. The theme for this year’s event is “There’s Nothing Sweeter Than a Cure.” (File photo)

ALBANY — Organizers of this year’s Dougherty/Lee County Relay for Life hope to show participants that “there’s nothing sweeter than a cure” when the event kicks off Friday night at the Exchange Club Fairgrounds.

A tradition in Dougherty and Lee counties, Relay for Life is a 12-hour walk designed to honor survivors of cancer, raise awareness about the disease and to raise money to help find a cure for the disease.

Now in its 20th year, the Dougherty/Lee County Relay for Life features teams from local businesses, organizations and schools that design tents and stay overnight supporting walkers with games and fun activities.

This year’s event theme is “There’s Nothing Sweeter Than a Cure” and organizers have asked all the teams to design their tents to go along with that theme.

“We want to make the track exactly like the Candyland board game,” said event chairman Kathy Culbreath. “Each team is picking our a candy to represent and will be decorating their tents around that and coming up with candy-themed activities for participants throughout the night.”

Culbreath said 45 teams had committed to hosting a tent through Tuesday with the possibility of more teams signing up at the last minute.

“All of the teams give it their best and go all out,” Culbreath said. “The event is all about the survivors and caregivers and those affected by cancer, but we want to make sure everyone gets to have fun during the event.”

Held at Darton State College the past few years, this year’s event is moving back to the Exchange Club Fairgrounds, not only because it provides more space but because it also offers covered spaces to help deal with inclement weather.

Last year’s turnout suffered due to torrential rain that precluded many for attending the event. Although weather is not expected to affect this year’s event, planners are taking precautions just in case.

“The turnout last year was fair but it wasn’t what we normally have because of the bad weather,” Culbreath said. “The fairgrounds have buildings and covered areas we can use if we have to so there’s a plan B.”

In addition to the walk itself, the Relay also features other events designed to honor cancer survivors and entertain participants, including a new children’s area that will have a jumpy house and various forms of entertainment, including live music and the popular Mr. Relay contest.

This year’s event will also feature a food contest where judges will pick their favorite meats and desserts.

There will also be the traditional Team Spirit Award giving to the team that best embodies the spirit of Relay for Life. Survivors will also choose a winner for the Campsite Contest giving to the team whose tent most touches or impresses the survivors.

Elyse Atha, staff partner for the American Cancer Society in Albany, said the organization is hoping to top last year’s fundraising total of roughly $108,000 with a goal of $120,000.

“We’re trying to push it a little further this year,” said Atha. “We’ve already doubled our sponsorship total so far this year, so we’re on the right track.”

In addition to the bump in sponsorships and teams, more than 350 participants have registered so far and Atha expects that number will swell to well over 400.

Activities begin at 6 p.m. Friday with the opening ceremony where Albany Mayor Dorothy Hubbard and Leesburg Mayor Jim Quinn will address the crowd.

Immediately following the opening ceremony the walk will begin with survivors taking the first lap around the course. One of the more poignant event’s of every Relay is the lighting of luminaries for survivors and loved ones. That will begin at 9 p.m. and anyone interested in purchasing a luminary or a light up balloon or a torch may do so for a donation.

Dotty and Robbie Davis will serve as emcees for the event throughout the night.

“It’s just a fun, family friendly night with something for everyone,” Atha said. “We encourage everyone to make sure this is their Fiday night outing.”

This year’s main event sponsor is Albany resident Jane Willson, who is providing sponsorship in honor of her late husband, Harry Willson.

Anyone interested in learning more about the event, participation or sponsorship can contact Atha at the American Cancer Society at (229) 446-0986 or via email at elyse.atha@cancer.org.