McDuffie County is back on track in the fight against cancer. Approximately 30 teams were represented at the 2011 Relay For Life kickoff meeting Feb. 3. Everyone in the Augusta Tech auditorium applauded as long-time Co-chairman Bob Knox Jr. donned a train engineer's cap and announced this year's theme -- Hop Back on Board the Relay Train.
"Notice it says 'back,' which acknowledges we took a year off," Mr. Knox said. "And this will give the teams something great to work with as far as decorating tents and batons."
Laughter and cheers resounded as team members competed to win $20, $50 or $100 cash prizes for their team's account.
And tears were wiped from eyes as people shared why they are involved in relay and who they work to honor. Many told of family members who were taken from them by cancer; some told of their own bouts with it and a few simply had been affected by watching an acquaintance fight cancer.
"It's just the right thing to do," said Anita Cummings, Thomson Elementary School principal and cancer survivor. "It gives you a good feeling to know you can help somebody along the way. If you don't do it for any other reason, do it because it's the right thing to do."
Mr. Knox took a few moments to remind everyone of past relay successes in McDuffie County, and even stepped out of character to let his pride shine.
"I'm sorry no one from the national office is here to tell you how much they look to us in McDuffie County as a leader and how they use us as an example to follow," he said. "I hate to pat ourselves on the back, but we are stars in Relay For Life."
McDuffie County held a relay for 12 years before taking a break in 2010. The break came after the county won several national awards for the most money raised per capita, and organizers needed a rest. Mr. Knox said McDuffie County raised more than $1.9 million during those 12 years.
Mr. Knox introduced Mary Wade Bell as the co-chairwoman of this year's relay and Angel Carter, the new local representative for the American Cancer Society. Together, they announced this year's goals: $185,000 in fundraising from 45 teams with 1,500 participants and honoring at least 250 cancer survivors.
New teams may join at any time until the day of the relay. There must be at least 10 people to make up a team.
This year's event will begin at 6 p.m. May 13 and end at 8 a.m. May 14 at the Thomson High School track.
"Not only does it help the cause, but in Thomson, it's a great community activity," Mr. Knox said. "What other way can we all get together, from varied backgrounds and races, and work together for a common goal? McDuffie County is one of the most caring communities I've ever known, plus we have a great time."