The 2010 Bulloch County Relay for Life was one big party Friday night as people celebrated life, honored those who have survived cancer and remembered those who did not.
The theme this year was "Make Every Day a Celebration," and teams chose different celebratory days from the calendar - from presidential birthdays to National Elephant Day - and decorated camp sites accordingly.
The event is multipurpose - to raise awareness of cancer, educate people about cancer, and to help raise funds to find a cure for the disease.
The track at the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fairgrounds was lined with thousands of luminaries sporting the names of loved ones who have lost their lives to cancer - or who have won the battle. Relay participants took turns all night walking, socializing, and having loads of fun.
The day began Friday with Survivor Bingo. The event focuses on cancer survivors, with many activities geared towards people who have lived to hear the words "you have cancer," and have fought the battle to overcome the disease.
After bingo, survivors and their care givers were treated to a grilled chicken dinner, with baked beans, potato salad, bread, dessert and drinks. The Kiwanis community building was filled with people laughing and discussing their experiences with cancer.
At the Survivor Tent, people reclined in rocking chairs after receiving gift bags. The Brooklet Dance troupe and Ogeechee Group Dancers entertained on stage until the official Survivor Lap began.
Those who would walk, did, while others rode on golf carts, making the first lap around the track as everyone clapped. It was an emotional tradition.
Deanna Hodnicki, 2010 Relay For Life chairperson, welcomed the crowd and the Southeast Bulloch High School ROTC presented the colors. Ashlee Mitchell, a survivor herself, sang the national anthem.
Afterwards a decorated golf cart contest was judged, and the campsites were judged according to theme. A Relay for Life egg hunt delighted kids, and the Silver Liners and Next Level band entertained folks as they made their rounds.
A "Tacky Prom" followed, then a Luminaria ceremony was held, with lights switched of so the soft glow of the luminaries as they were lit could be seen and appreciated. More entertainment followed throughout the night, with food of all kinds offered by various booths.
Other events included a Relay Idol competition, Old School Olympics, Duct Tape Fashion Show, karaoke and board games, a scavenger hunt, and finally, breakfast at 6 a.m. followed by an awards ceremony. The final lap was at 7 a.m. today.
Teams wore specially designed Relay shirts with creative phrases, such as the Georgia Southern University Store's wanted poster for "Mel A. Noma, wanted for crimes against the body." Other team slogans included "Peace Out for cancer Research," "Oh, The Places You'll Go With a Cure ( Dr. Seuss)" and " Cancer Sucks."
Carol Cogell, a cancer survivor since 1995, rested and visited in the Survivor's tent. She has chronic leukemia.
Learning she had cancer " was a big shock," she said. "Nobody in my family had this kind of cancer." Her daughter was also at the Relay, a survivor of ovarian cancer. Cogell said she believes diet and exposure to environmental elements is what causes the disease.
She said she enjoyed her first Relay experience Friday.
"I marveled at it," she said. "They spent a lot of time and effort."
Diane Beasley has attended a couple Relay for Life events. A breast cancer survivor, her stepsister was diagnosed after she was. Both have won their battles, and Beasley remembered her first Survivor lap.
"I just cried as I walked that lap," she said. "It was more than I could ever imagine, the way they support and do for everybody. It's also a little heartbreaking to see how many people have had cancer."