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A rousing success

This weekend, I saw some lucky people help some other lucky people.

This weekend, slap dab in the middle of God's country, we had the McDuffie County American Cancer Society Relay for Life. I contracted with The McDuffie Mirror to do some photography, spent the night and was blown away as never before.

I have covered several of these events, but this year it got real good to me. I just seemed more connected after sharing with some of the survivors, their stories of hope.

Jenny, my 12-year-old daughter, and I took a tent. We wanted to see it all. When the Survivor Lap kicked off it was only 88 degrees, but the humidity was 96 percent. You could reach out, grab a handful of air and squeeze the water out.

It was horrible, but we were there for a noble cause. It wasn't about us. It was about helping others, so it was awesome. Almost 2,200 walkers signed to walk comprising 45 teams from all across our county. Close to 250 took part in the Survivor Lap. Almost 3,000 people turned out to see the event begin.

As the evening progressed, there was a low country boil, hamburgers, hotdogs, lasagna and a host of other delectables. It was incredible eating. Groups from religious to punk to barbershop took the stage and entertained the walkers and visitors.

Our local law enforcement peeled back their pride for the good cause and allowed whipped topping pies to find a home on their face.

Even our sheriff, who is definitely a no-nonsense guy, got in the act, bringing two bids of $75 collectively. Tommy Phelps, local banker and school board chairman, had the honor of bestowing a pie valued at $40.

During the luminary ceremony, 1,200 bags circled the track adding a glow to the nighttime.

A bagpiper played Amazing Grace as people knelt by and passed by luminaries in honor of relatives, friends and loved ones. Candles held by others danced in the night, lighting the faces as tears of joy and sadness mingled in the May evening. The scene made goose bumps the size of strawberries on my spine.

As the night progressed, the walkers progressed and so did the money raised. One of our organizers, Thomson Mayor Bob Knox, Jr., said the goal of the event was $175,000. By 9:50 p.m. Fridday night, with close to 12 hours remaining before the event's end, the mayor smiled broadly and told close to 500 people that $176,000 had been raised. We were ecstatic.

The night wore on, and so did the walkers. The humidity made it so sticky and dew covered everything like a light rain. Sleep in the muggy conditions came at a premium, but some of our crowd could sleep through the second coming.

I slept for an hour. When I woke at 5:30 a.m., it was still dark, and I was covered in dew.

The camera bag was wet and a layer of water was on the tent, which contained Jenny and a friend who had spent the night, hidden from the moisture, tucked sleepily in sleeping bags.

Before the event, Jenny's motto was... "Daddy, I'm staying up ALL night. You can sleep if ya' wanna."

But when youngsters play and walk and are social butterflies, as most are, sleep comes much more readily.

Another hour or so and the sun peeked out and welcomed the day. Walkers were still making their laps and the total was still climbing. By the event's end, $192,000 had been raised and the mayor choked back tears and said, "This is historic and overwhelming. I'm sorry. I get a little teary-eyed."

So do we sir. So do we.

Footnote - The mayor added that he expected the figure to climb to around $200,000. Our figure last year was close to $140,000, which put us at third place in the country as far as per-capita fund-raising for the event. Unless some municipality lights it up, we will be first, and that's pretty high cotton.

It just gives proof the people of McDuffie County don't only talk about helping the less fortunate -- they can do it when they set their mind to it.

What is our success formula? Sorry to boast, but the proof is in the pudding. We care. Add to that an excellent organizational team, and we simply get it done.

We can't wait until next year. Bring it on.

Web posted on Thursday, May 20, 2004

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Temperature:53° F
Wind:from the W at 5 MPH
Visibility:10 miles
Dew Point:53° F
Updated: 04-Nov-2010 10:01

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