This youth takes a moment to reflect during the lighting of the memorial torch garden at this year's Relay For Life. (Staff photo: Brad McEwen)
2014 Dougherty and Lee County Relay for Life Opening
The Exchange Club Fairgrounds at 810 S. Westover Blvd. in Albany was the site for the 2014 edition of the Dougherty and Lee County Relay for Life, which was dedicated in memory of Albany businessman Harry Willson.
Mr. Relay 2014
Clad in hot pink with a giant lollipop accessory, Toffett, the alter ego of Lake Park Elementary School Assistant Principal Clay Kile, won the title of "Mr. Relay" by garnering donations from the crowd following a dance-off with fellow contestants. The event was part of the all-night Dougherty and Lee County Relay for Life fundraiser that benefits the American Cancer Society.
ALBANY — In what has been an Albany tradition for nearly 30 years, the American Cancer Society’s Dougherty and Lee County Relay for Life successfully brought together hundreds of people who wanted to show their support for and honor the memories of their loved ones who have been afflicted with cancer.
2014 Dougherty and Lee County Relay for Life
The Exchange Club Fairgrounds on Westover Boulevard were full of activity all night long Friday and into Saturday with folks who gathered to help the fight against cancer.
After being held at Darton State College for a number of years, the 2014 Relay returned to Albany’s Exchange Club Fairgrounds, transforming the midway into a colorful collection of team tents inspired by this year’s theme “There’s Nothing Sweeter than a Cure.”
MOBILE USERS: Click HERE to see the photo gallery, HERE to see opening events video and HERE to see the Mr. Relay dance contest video.
“Each team is picked a candy to represent and decorated their tents around that,” said event co-chair Kathy Culbreath. “They (also) came up with candy-themed activities for participants throughout the night.”
More than 40 teams reserved spots along the track to make sure walkers were entertained throughout the night as they made their way around the luminary-lined track.
The event began with an opening ceremony at 6 p.m. Friday, when event organizers welcomed the crowds who had come out to support the fight against cancer.
Elyse Atha, American Cancer Society staff partner for Relay for Life, welcomed the crowd, thanking those attending for their support and urging everyone to continue to stand up and fight cancer through their support of Relay for Life.
“It’s a time to embark on our most ambitious crusade yet,” said Atha, “We are determined that this will be cancer’s last century. During the last hundred years, we’ve witnessed that cancer hates noise, commotion and action. Progress comes when we speak out and proclaim victories. Today, two out of three diagnosed with cancer in the U.S. are surviving. Every day more than 400 people celebrate birthdays that would have been lost.”
After the opening remarks, the walk officially kicked off with the survivors’ lap, followed by a special caregivers’ lap and then a children’s lap before the rest of the crowd joined in.
Walkers were encouraged to continue walking throughout the night, while those manning the team support tents entertained and supported the crowd with games, cheers and food.
In addition to the volunteer tents, there was entertainment throughout the night in the form of live music and various contests, including the annual Mr. Relay contest in which men volunteered to dress in women’s clothing to get donations from the crowd.
Always an entertaining highlight of the Relay, this year’s Mr. Relay contest featured six entrants and was won by “Toffetta,” who was really Lake Park Elementary Assistant Principal Clay Kile. Toffetta raised more than $300.
While there was plenty of fun to keep participants motivated, the most poignant moment of the night was the traditional Luminary Ceremony paying tribute to cancer survivors and those who have succumbed to the disease.
Each year family and loved ones of cancer victims purchase luminary bags to light the track, as well as luminary balloons and torches for the torch garden in honor those who have battled the disease.
Atha said this year more there were more than 500 luminary bags, more than 60 balloons and more than 40 torches displayed throughout the night.
For many, the opportunity to support and honor loves affected by cancer has become a tradition that they look forward to each year.
Chip Kelly, a surveyor with Dougherty County who spent most of the night cooking ribs and chicken for the county’s Public Works team, said he’s been supporting Relay for more than a decade and looks forward to doing something each year.
“I’m glad to support this,” said Kelly. “We always have a team and make sure we show our support.”
For Jennifer Collins and Crystal Young, participating in Relay has taken on new meaning in the past three years. As members of Team Young, they first organized a team a family and friends three years ago to support their father, Arthur Young, who was battling cancer.
After losing their father after that first year, they now support Relay to honor his memory and help raise funds and awareness for those still battling.
“This year we raised $350, which is good for a single team,” said Young. “We’re going to keep on walking, too.”
While some, like the members of Team Young, are turning into veteran supporters, new volunteers joined the fight for the first time. Melvin Cohens volunteered his time to help the Jefferson Street Boys and Girls Club Team and served as the dunkee at the team’s dunk tank fundraiser.
“My auntie had cancer,” Cohens said. “I thought doing this would be a fun way to do something to help and support cancer patients.”