Click here to see photos from the Relay for Life
McDuffie County and surrounding areas joined hearts and hands and raised close to $200,000 in this year's American Cancer Society Relay for Life held Friday and Saturday at the Thomson High School Track.
The effort eclipsed last year's mark by close to $65,000 and created a tall task for making next year's effort even more successful.
According to Thomson Mayor Bob Knox, Jr., co-chairman for the event, 2,200 walkers participated, including 250 survivors who took part in the relay's Survivor Lap. A total of 45 teams were part of the festivities, marking a large upswing in all areas.
At noon Monday, Mr. Knox said $195,000 had been given during the relay and he expected that figure to reach $200,000. Last year's amount was good enough for third place per-capita nationally. Mr. Knox said unless some community caught fire this year, he expects McDuffie County to be No. 1 in the United States.
"I think that makes us kind of special," he said.
The event was dedicated to those who had fought or were fighting their battle with the dreaded disease. The Cancer-Tumor-Chemo Registry's most recent figures from 2000 show 277 people in McDuffie County have the disease, with 133 of those being males. Lung cancer cases totaled 63 to head the list with 41 breast cancer incidents.
Close to 3,000 were at the opening ceremony, which began under sunny skies and humid conditions Friday evening.
As J.L. Stanphill, who sat under the shade of the Survivor's Tent Friday night awaiting the Survivor Lap, he said the ACS was wonderful.
Mr. Stanphill was diagnosed with lymphoma in 1999, and has so far received a clean bill of health.
"They do a really good job of fund-raising and community awareness. Their support groups are great. They've been so supportive of me," he said.
Joy Barrera of Thomson, another survivor, said she walked for herself and for her daughter who has lung, brain, breast and stomach cancer.
"You can dial up ACS and they can get you the help you need and they are very efficient," she said. "They are best at what they do, and that is helping others."
It also seems like the people of McDuffie County are good at helping others.
"There is no other event in our community that brings together a more diverse group working harder and having more fun than the Relay for Life," said Mr. Knox. "The community pride generated by this event is unmatched and does more to pull our community together than any other activity, with the possible exception of the state football championship."
The event went off without a hitch, featuring a wide variety of local talent throughout the 14-and-a-half hour event.
From school children brandishing batons to karate demonstrations to gospel and ska groups, the event had something for almost every taste.
And speaking of taste, this year's theme was "Cooking Up a Cure" and featured a wide variety of delectable food from the teams entered.
Cuisine included a low-country boil, lasagna, barbecue, fried chicken and fish and a wide variety of other choices.
As Mr. Knox concluded the event Saturday morning before close to 80 people, including walkers finishing up their last laps around the dew covered track, he spoke briefly of the work done.
"This is historic and overwhelming. I'm sorry, I get a little teary-eyed," he said. "Let's all go home and get some rest."
Monday morning, shortly before happily accepting an envelope of money for the event from Thomson Fire Chief Rick Sewell, Mr. Knox was somewhat guarded about next year's relay effort.
"We will worry about that next year," he said, adding that the organization would look into increasing corporate sponsor participation as a way to top this year's leap in donations.
BY THE NUMBERS
The American Cancer Society estimated that one in three will contract the disease in their lifetime, meaning close to 9 million people will suffer from cancer. The society estimates nationwide 1,368,030 new cases will be reported in 2004 with 563,700 people succumbing to the disease this year. The Center for Disease Control in Atlanta reports that 13 million adults suffered from cancer in 2000.
For more information, visit the American Cancer Society website at www.cancer.org, or call the society at 1-800-ACS-2345.