Relay For Life events set for Friday

Published 9:31 pm Tuesday, April 17, 2012

CANCER SURVIVORS and their friends and family join in the survivors’ lap at the start of last year’s Relay For Life event. This year’s Relay starts Friday.

The reasons some people volunteer their time for Relay For Life are varied.
There was the mother who lost her battle with cancer at a pace that seemed way too fast.
There was the daughter taken way too early.

There’s the robust young man, whose sudden fight for his life seems all too familiar.
On Friday, April 20, Decatur County’s Relay for Life will begin at approximately 6 p.m. with opening ceremonies, and at 6:30 p.m. the survivors’ lap will take place on the track of Bainbridge Middle School. For next 11 hours, the 30 teams of more than 463 people, who are giving their time, will walk the track in the hopes of one day declaring victory over a disease that is as varied as the colors of the rainbow.

This year’s theme is the “Color of Cancer.” Teams have picked colors that either portray their organization or that color represents a type of cancer that has touched the lives of those team members. For example, Bainbridge Bikefest team members are going to be deck out in orange and black, the famous colors for Harley-Davidson. But in the realm of cancer, orange represents kidney cancer and black represents melanoma.

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With this year’s theme, Chealsea Cromer with the American Cancer Society hopes the teams will promote awareness of the cancer or cancers the team represents.

“We encouraged them to really bring the message back into it,” she said.

Lacey Addison, a volunteer for Relay for Life, said she volunteers on the committee because both sides of her family have had cancer — two who have survived the disease and one who has not. Addison also works at Memorial Hospital and Manor and at South Georgia Medical Center in Valdosta.

“It’s the first place where they find out something is wrong, the place they visit when times get tough, and also the place they usually end up,” Addison said. “We watch cancer run its course on people. It’s an ugly thing, and I relay each and every year in hopes that one day we find a cure. It’s something near and dear to my heart, and I work very hard each year to make sure we do our very best.”

Relay for Life Chairman Beverly A. Shirley said she prayed and searched for answers on whether to take on such a responsibility.

“And then one day after reading one of Brad Ward’s ‘Caring Bridge’ updates, I received my answer,” she said. “I serve as Relay chairperson to be an advocate for those who have battled and lost their battle with cancer.”

She cites the cancer cases of Brad Ward, Sandi Ward Williams, Pearson Martin, Laverne Gay, her mother in law, Sally Shirley, and her grandmother, Evelyn Atkinson, as well as so many others.

“They are brave warriors that found strength to fight the battle of cancer,” Shirley said. “Why not give them the honor they deserve? I am not the Relay chairperson for myself. I do this for each one of them because they have touched my heart in so many ways, and I am going to continue to love them and honor them.”

The schedule

At midnight, the band Jagged Row from Dallas, Texas, will be on the stage. They have performed at several venues in the past three years, including The Wildflower Festival, House of Blues, Real Texas Festival, Texas Motor Speedway, State Fair of Texas and other Relay For Life events.

Other highlights throughout the evening and early Saturday morning, are such activities as musical chairs, tug-a-war, road to recovery race and other games that members of all the teams are encouraged to participate in.

The centerpiece of the evening is the solemn Luminaria Ceremony, scheduled for 9 p.m. Friday.

The closing ceremonies are scheduled for 6 a.m. Saturday.