Lori Wiggins, a cancer survivor since 2001, raised almost $12,000 all by herself this year for cancer research and awareness. She was one of hundreds of cancer survivors and thousands of others at the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fairgrounds Friday night, participating in the 2016 Relay for Life- Bulloch County fundraiser for the American Cancer Society.
Teams set up tents surrounding a track lined with luminaries in honor of those still fighting or who have passed on from the disease. The theme this year was western, with signs urging others to “Give cancer the boot” and sending messages such as “Cancer can’t break our spirit.”
There were dunking booths, bake sales, raffles, lemonade stands and more as each team tried to raise even more money. There was even a horse named Millie munching hay at one camp.
The event was kicked off with a “Survivor’s Lap,” where cancer survivor made the round of honor before the relay began. A cookout for cancer survivors and caregivers followed inside the Kiwanis community building as the event continued outside.
Wiggins, who suffers from Barrett’s esophagus (a type of cancer) and also had skin cancer, held a silent auction and a hot dog sale at her workplace (Georgia Sothern University College of Education /Teaching and Learning), and raised the rest online, she said.
Barrett’s esophagus is related to acid reflux, and hers was a bad case, Wiggins said. “They had to put my esophagus back into my stomach, it was so bad.” Her team’s booth offered boot cookies, beer bread, cake slices and more as they worked to raise even more money for a cancer cure.
One team, the Citizens of Georgia Power, sold boiled peanuts, drinks and other goodies for the cause. “We also are having a Kiss a Pig contest at work,” said Amy Anderson, a Georgia Power employee. The team formed to support a coworker who is a survivor of breast cancer, Victoria Moore.”
There were local mascots, dogs on leashes, GSU athletes and cheerleaders, and even beauty queens at the event. Tiny Hadlee Chea Fields, Miss Bulloch County Queen of Hope, at 19 months old, sported a purple tutu along with her crown.
“She raised $855 in honor of her nana, Glenda Gail Walden,” who lost the battle against breast cancer, said her mother, Jamie Lee Fields.
Inside at the cookout, people wearing “survivor” shirts enjoyed a chicken dinner provided by volunteers. As they awaited dinner, Charlene Mann recalled her bout with cancer.
Her husband had a rare sinus cancer, ad died from the disease, Six months later, Mann learned she had breast cancer.
Alone, with a 10-year-old child to raise, she was frightened and overwhelmed. But support from others including Relay for Life helped her get through it. “They are my family,” she said. “I love Relay. It makes me feel like someone is giving us something to look forward to. It is rewarding to me and people really care.”
Carol Sheehy, who was diagnosed with breast cancer five years ago, “two months after I retired,” agreed.
“It (Relay for Life) makes you feel special,” she said. “Everybody cares. The survivor dinner (held prior to the Relay for Life event) is really special. “
The event lasted all night long into Saturday morning as participants walked laps around the track to raise money and awareness. Some team members played guitar, other grilled and yet others invited visitors to their camp to play games.
Live entertainment and other announcements and activities kept participants busy and having fun throughout the night.
The amounts raised will be announced at a later date,. Kay Nay, American Cancer Society community manager, said the event raised over $100,000 last year.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.