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McDuffie County might be small, but its residents have the biggest hearts in the nation.
The community was recognized as the most generous group in America in raising funds for the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life event in May.
From left, Paula Mohan, chief development officer for the South Atlantic Division of the American Cancer Society, McDuffie co-chairman Peggy Willis, Georgette Porter, senior vice president for Georgia, and Ryan Atkinson, American Cancer Society community field manager for an area that includes McDuffie County, pose with the various awards McDuffie County representatives picked up during the weekend celebration.
"McDuffie County is a textbook example of the Relay for Life because of the way it brought the community together for a common cause," said Ryan Atkinson, American Cancer Society community field manager for an area that includes McDuffie County.
Local residents raised $201,817 in the event, which is $9.37 per person based on population, Mr. Atkinson said. That put McDuffie County in the top spot for counties across the nation with a population of 20,000 to 24,999.
"For us to be recognized as the best in the country is a remarkable achievement," saidThomson Mayor Bob Knox.
The success of the Seventh Annual Relay for Life in McDuffie County can be attributed to the dedication and generosity of local residents who came together as a community, he said.
"That is what is so gratifying about the effort; it involves people from all walks of life -- all segments of the community. They all worked together because cancer touches everybody; it doesn't play favorites," he said.
More than 2,000 people from 45 teams participated in the event, and over 234 cancer survivors took the first lap around the track of Thomson High School to the cheers of onlookers, setting yet another national record for the area.
McDuffie County received the "Pack the Track" award recognizing communities with the highest number of survivors participating in the Relay for Life, based on population, Mr. Atkinson said.
"This is a great accomp-lishment, in addition to being number one in the nation (for fundraising)," he stated.
Peggy Willis, who coordinated the Relay For Life event along with Mr. Knox, accepted awards on behalf of the community last weekend in Hilton Head, SC.
"The main thing about this community is that people genuinely care about each other. We've seen the impact we can make by caring," Ms. Willis said.
The Relay For Life raises awareness and provides hope, letting people know, "You don't have to deal with this alone," she said.
Ms. Willis accepted the honors on behalf of McDuffie County from Paula Mohan, chief development officer for the South Atlantic Division of the American Cancer Society.
"We value the volunteers in McDuffie County and appreciate their outstanding effort," said Ms. Mohan, who presented the top awards at the two-day conference.
With the theme, "Because of You ... Lives Are Saved, Lives Are Changed," the conference highlighted this year's Relay For Life accomplishments.
The Relay For Life is an American Cancer Society signature event that began in May 1985 when Dr. Gordy Klatt, a surgeon and recreational runner, clocked 83 miles in 24 hours around a track in Tacoma, WA, to raise funds for cancer research and programs. The next year, more than 200 supporters joined him, and today more than 4,200 communities across America and in eight foreign countries participate.