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Going downtown with Relay for Life
Changes expected to bring new experience to participants
In this 2018 file photo, Julie Strickland, a 7-year cancer survivor, gets plenty of high fives as she makes her way past Georgia Southern athletes during the traditional survivors lap to kick off the 2018 Bulloch County/Georgia Southern University Relay for Life at the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fairgrounds.

Exciting new changes are in the works for the 2019 Bulloch County/Georgia Southern University Relay for Life. A new route, new staging location and food trucks, as well as pairing the event with Statesboro’s monthly First Friday celebration is expected to bring a new experience to participants and those who attend.

For years, the Relay for Life American Cancer Society fundraiser was held at Bulloch Academy and then the Kiwanis fairgrounds, with GSU holding its own event. Combining the efforts and connecting it to the downtown Statesboro area will possibly draw more people, including those who already enjoy the First Friday event, said Relay for Life Community Manager Lauren McGrath.

“This year’s committee is excited to be teaming up with our Downtown Statesboro Development Authority, who is hosting our event in the downtown area,” she said. “This year’s theme, ‘Cancer Is Not a Game,’ will bring a carnival atmosphere to the downtown area that can be enjoyed by all.”

Although First Friday is usually held on the first Friday of each month, in April it was moved to a week later so as to not conflict with spring break. The combined events will be held April 12 starting at 5 p.m., she said.

First Friday, as usual, involves promotions and fun with downtown businesses, entertainment and food.  

The Relay for Life staging area will be at Ag South on Vine Street, with the walking route meandering around the Vine Street area, McGrath said.


How do you Relay?

Relay for Life fundraisers take place year round across the world, but in Bulloch County, the main celebration is in the spring.

People join teams — formed by businesses or other groups — and start seeking donations beforehand, building up to the actual Relay event.

“Individuals and teams set up (campsites or tents) around a path or track,” McGrath said. “Each team has at least one participant on the track at all times, symbolizing the battle waged around the clock by those facing cancer.”

The money raised goes toward efforts to find a cancer cure and raise awareness of the disease, she said.

Teams and individual participants raise money any way they can, such as paying a fee to wear jeans at work, holding bake sales, organizing raffles and just asking for donations.

Then, the night of the Relay for Life event, the teams set up campsites reflecting that year’s theme. The sites are judged as part of the fun, and visitors can stop by each tent to see what that particular team is offering.

McGrath said this year, in keeping with the “Cancer Is Not a Game” theme, there will be all sorts of games such as “Go Fish,” bingo and a variety of board games for people to play.

Often teams will sell food or novelty items as well. Food trucks will be in the area, too, she said.

There is always a “Survivor Tent” where cancer survivors register, pick up T-shirts and other items and fellowship with each other. The annual survivor picnic for cancer survivors and their caregivers will be held at the tent near Ag South before the event begins, McGrath said. Survivors will also have a special parking area with golf cart shuttles to the staging area.


Why Relay?

The American Cancer Society “is the only organization fighting cancer on every front,” McGrath said. “Funds raised from Relay For Life events allow the ACS to attack cancer in dozens of ways, each of them critical to achieving a world without cancer — from developing breakthrough therapies and innovative research, to building supportive communities that come together to help those affected by cancer with access to treatment.”

The ACS “provides empowering resources to deploying activists to raise awareness and develop game-changing approaches to address the cancer burden for all people,” she said.

Relay for Life was founded by Dr. Gordy Klatt in Tacoma, Washington, in 1985. There are 3.5 million participants across the world who unite at more than 4,500 events to “celebrate people who have been touched by cancer, remember loved ones lost, and take action for lifesaving change. Symbolizing the battle waged around the clock by those facing cancer, the event can last up to 24 hours and empowers communities to take a stand against cancer,” she said.

Since 1985, Relay For Life events in the U.S. have raised more than $6.3 billion.

It isn’t too late to be a part of the fun. To join or donate, visit


Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.

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