This Friday evening McDuffie County residents will come together for the annual Relay for Life, one of the nation's most successful efforts to raise funds for cancer research and education.
Opening ceremonies will begin at the Thomson High School track about 6 p.m., and survivors will walk the first "victory lap" followed by all the teams taking up the fight against cancer, said Peggy Willis, chairman.
Several months of planning have led to a successful relay season this year.
"We have more teams than ever. We have more survivors than ever. We're raising more money than ever.›
"I'm anxious to see our final numbers this year because›it will be interesting to see how we compare to›last year when we were number one in the nation," Ms. Willis said.
Last year's relay raised more than $201,000, a number that gave McDuffie the top spot in the country based on population and per capita fundraising.
Part of the success of the annual event can be attributed to the atmosphere of the relay which shows community members they can do spectacular things by working together for a worthwhile effort.
"I think the secret to the success of the Relay can be found on Friday night each year at the actual event. It's hard to get excited about something when you don't know anything about it.› So, when people attend the Relay, they are hooked.› They see that it's fun, it's exciting, and it's so 'do-able,'" Ms. Willis noted.
Also as part of Friday night's activities will be a luminary service starting about 9:15 p.m. It's touching to walk around the track and read the illuminated names, she said.›
While walking around the track throughout the night, many participants will be thinking of a cure to help those who battle the disease such as seventh grader Katelyn McTier who is in a transition period where doctors are trying to keep her in remission.
"We wanted her with us at Thomson Middle School during Relay season, but instead, she's in and out of the Medical College of Georgia's Medical Center undergoing more chemotherapy," Ms. Willis said.
Waiting and being patient is one of life's most difficult lessons, but a community like McDuffie County can help, she said.
"When we come together as a family or as a church, we can continually lift each other up in prayer, and that helps us get through the immediate crisis," she said.
As participants walk the track Friday evening, several drawings will occur including two tickets to a NASCAR race in Atlanta and a vacation for four.
On Saturday morning, Boy Scout Troop #125 will provide a pancake and sausage breakfast for $1 per plate. Around 8 a.m. officials plan to announce the total amount of money raised this year, but funds may be turned in until the end of May.