2013 Relay For Life
4,000 turn out for annual walk
by Sarah Fay Campbell
Celebrate — those who are fighting cancer and those who have won.
Remember — those who have finished the battle.
Fight back — by raising money for cancer research and services for those who have cancer.
That is the purpose of Relay for Life.
On Friday, and into the wee hours of Saturday, some 4,000 people turned out for Coweta’s Relay for Life. There were 111 relay teams, ranging from friends and family of those with cancer to schools, businesses and churches. And there were spectators, too, who, while not necessarily members of teams, came to celebrate, remember and fight back.
The walking track at the Coweta County Fairgrounds was lined with luminarias, each bearing the name of someone who has battled cancer. The luminaria ceremony, held at 10 p.m., is one of the most emotional parts of the event.
There is also the memory tent, where slides of those who have finished the battle are shown. And there is a prayer tent.
“It’s fellowship,” said Rachel Newcomer of the American Cancer Society about Relay. Relay is “a lot of people’s healing method from losing a loved one.”
Relay for Life really kicks off with the survivor lap. Survivors — anyone who has had a diagnosis of cancer — are dressed in distinctive purple shirts with “survivor” emblazoned on the back. Accompanied by friends and loved ones, they walk around the track to sounds of “Survivor” by Destiny’s Child.
“I’m a survivor, I’m not gonna give up, I’m not gonna stop, I’m gonna work harder.”
Then comes the team lap, and the regular relay begins, with various specialty laps held throughout the 12-hour event.
Teams, many dressed in their own T-shirts, were set up in tents around the track, and many sold food or offered games to raise additional money.
Also raising money — and a number of smiles — were the contestants for “Miss-ter Relay.”
Men from the various teams dressed up like ladies and solicited donations. The winner was Jim Gay of the Coweta County employee team.
“We have some lovely gentlemen,” said Newcomer.
There were also various awards and competitions, including best banner, best team chant or rap, best campsite and best program.
Though the event raises hundreds of thousands of dollars for ACS, “it’s more of a fellowship than about the money, really,” said Newcomer, who got involved after her brother died from leukemia at age 20. “The survivors are why we do what we do,” she said. “Increasing the number of birthdays” is the ultimate goal.