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Crowd packs track at Relay for Life

Crowd packs track at Relay for Life

Crowd packs track at Relay for Life

Representing Delta Chi fraternity, An...


    With balloons, barbecues, games and lots of laughter and smiles, the crowd that packed the track Friday night at the 2008 Relay for Life were celebrating.
    Not celebrating that many of them once had cancer nor that others have lost loved ones who suffered from the disease, but celebrating the fact that so many of them are survivors.
    Breast cancer. Prostate cancer. Leukemia. The words strike fear into the hearts of those whose families affected by cancer, but the folks at the Kiwanis Fairgrounds Friday night weren't afraid. They were bravely fighting the killer by raising awareness and money for research to find a cure.
    "I'm here to support the American Cancer Society, and help myself," said James Tucker, a survivor of prostate cancer. "I've been cancer free for 22 years."
    Relay for Life is about teams forming to raise money by collecting pledges, selling food items, and getting donations. The night of the relay, team members camp out while taking turns making laps around the track, bordered by thousands of luminaries – white paper bags with candles inside  that were sold in honor of countless cancer survivors – and those who did not win the battle.
    Tucker enjoyed a trip around the  track during the Survivor's Lap, which is an emotional tribute to those who have won the battle against cancer.
    A tent was set aside for cancer survivors to rest between laps and visit with others. Decorated with a movie theme – " A Ticket to a Cure" – it provided a pleasant spot where survivors could watch the events unfold.
    The camps are decorated with themes relating to cancer, and are judged as part of the fun. Some camp sites offer refreshments and dinners for sale as a way to raise even more money for the American Cancer Society.
    Statesboro Primitive Baptist Church used a penguin theme, catching on to a popular kids' movie, " Happy Feet – Step to a Cure."
    The Pittman Park United Methodist Church team created a mural depicting a baseball field - the " Field of Dreams."  BB&T bank was "Cooking up a Cure for Cancer" with the Whistlestop Cafe.
    The campsites drew a great deal of attention as people walked around outside the track. Jordan Lee, a 17-year-old from Statesboro, was visiting with friends at the event because "It's a real good atmosphere."
    But he was also  there to support the cause, he said. "My grandfather and grandmother died of cancer, as well as my childhood babysitter. It's good to see so many people banding together."
    Kay Nay, senior manager for Bulloch County's Relay for Life, said she was once again impressed with the turnout.
    "Every year it amazes me even more for the dedication, love and compassion the county has for this cause," she said. "People keep going and going. I think it's just fantastic, and we appreciate everything, Bulloch County is a county that has taken up the fight against cancer."
    "Relay just becomes a passion for you," said Eddie Olliff, Relay for Life Survivorship chairman.
    The survivor's walk is the most emotional event for her, she said. She is a survivor herself.
    "When you see all these people clapping, you just feel the love," she said. "We've never had people on both the inside and outside of the track before. They were shoulder to shoulder," clapping as the survivors took the trek around the track.
    Survivors were certainly the stars of the night, having a cookout preceding the relay and a breakfast this morning.
    The Statesboro Noon Lions Club helped the Statesboro Kiwanis Club with a pancake breakfast to which all walkers and team members were invited, said Lions member Krystal Bragg.
    "We're going to help them serve and are here to support Relay for Life," she said. "We're also here as a community service, and we also have many cancer survivors in the club."
    One of those members is Martha Fay Foglio, who survived breast cancer in 1999 only to find she had breast cancer again on the other side three years later.
    She survived that bout as well, and knows how it feels to hear the doctor utter the "C" word, and what it is like to lose her hair due to chemotherapy and other treatments.
    "I'm out here because I'm a cancer survivor," she said. "It makes me feel very good that people recognize the fact that there are a lot of survivors here in Statesboro. It's nice to be recognized, and it brings awareness of the disease."
    The Relay for Life lasted throughout the night, with children playing games, adults socializing, and everyone enjoying themselves as the money rolled in. The total of money raised will be announced later this week, as will the identities of the teams raising the most for the cause.

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