Each year the organizers of the McDuffie County Relay for Life think the event has reached its pinnacle. And each year, they are surprised at the turnout and the amount of money raised for the American Cancer Society.
The 2006 edition of the Relay has once again surpassed the expectations of its organizers. Friday evening, thousands of people gathered at the Thomson High School track to do their part in the fight against cancer.
As of Tuesday, $220,000 had been raised in conjunction with the event, and last-minute donations rolling in were expected to send that figure past $235,000 before all is said and done. The numbers were higher than last year's initial donations and, once again, staggering for Relay Co-Chair and Thomson Mayor Bob Knox.
"It really makes you feel good, not only about the worthwhile aspect of cancer relief and help, but also about how the community just pitches together and really works together," Mr. Knox said.
Even though this year's goal was surpassed while walkers were still on the track, the organizers know it's not only about the money. Co-Chair Peggy Willis was glad to see that more and more people are learning what Relay is all about.
"When you visit your first Relay, you're a little apprehensive of what to expect, and then you realize it's about people who are excited about life," she said. "Relay is all about celebrating life. It's about learning to live life on purpose. It's about seizing each day and making the most of it. It's about loving the people around you every day and being sure they know just exactly how much they mean to you."
This year, a record number of people experienced those sentiments. Mr. Knox said the Relay had more teams and participants than in years past. And for cancer survivors - who also showed up in record numbers - the Relay holds a special meaning.
"Bringing the families together; bringing the friends together. Wow," Ms. Willis said. "It's just such an awesome experience to see that we're doing something positive in this community. It's just so humbling to know that we're bringing them hope. They don't have to go through the cancer journey alone."
Add the fact that the Relay is the largest single event in the county, and its organizers are proud of the unifying affect it has on the community
"I think it's a great time when we can get everybody together," Mr. Knox said. "...It's a good way to get people together who don't always necessarily find themselves in the same places, but they really band together to work on this effort."
Several awards were handed out to Relay teams during the event. Best tent went to First Bank's Beat Goes On For A Cure with Sonny and Cher. Second place in that category went to Thomson Middle School's Rockin' n' Rollin' For a Cure 50s Diner. Third place went to Queensborough National Bank & Trust's Rock Around the Clock for a Cure.
Thomson Middle School's microphone from the 50's won Best Baton. Second Place went to Washington Heights Baptist Church's Drumstick from Mary T and Big John's Drummers. Third place went to CSRA Home Health, Beach Blasters Blasting Away Cancer.