Keep the dream alive in 2005

Gwinnett County has made a name for itself with the passion the citizens, businesses, and civic organizations demonstrate for volunteering. Our unique culture of giving back to the community has blessed us with the wonderful quality of life we enjoy, with world-class schools, modern medical facilities, a stable county government, progressive infrastructure improvements and a pro-business environment.

Many people sacrifice their time for the betterment of their friends and neighbors by volunteering long hours, expecting nothing in return. Gwinnett County is comprised of people dedicated to service. Corporations, public and private schools, neighborhood associations and individual citizens come together for a common cause. It's this commitment that illuminates Gwinnett County as a bright beacon for all to see.

This feeling of community is vividly expressed at Gwinnett's American Cancer Society's Relay For Life event being held from Friday, May 13, through Saturday, May 14. Relay For Life is a fun-filled overnight event designed to celebrate cancer survivorship and raise money for research and programs of our American Cancer Society. During the event, more than 600 teams gather at the Gwinnett County Fairgrounds located off Sugarloaf Parkway in Lawrenceville to take turns walking or running laps. On that Friday night, over 10,000 Gwinnettians will gather to celebrate the lives of those lost to cancer, support those who face cancer, and be a part of the fight that will one day eliminate cancer. Two thousand Gwinnett County cancer survivors will lead the first lap on Friday at 6:30 p.m. Seeing the faces and hearing the stories of these individuals reflects a distinctive reminder to all participants for the reason Relay For Life is held.

As we have since 1997, the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce is proud to participate in a leading role for this event. Chamber members such as Andersen, Tate, Mahaffey & McGarity, PC, Gwinnett County Public Schools, E.R. Snell Contractor, Inc., Emory Eastside Medical Center, Main Street Bank, Brand Banking Company, Primerica, Scientific-Atlanta, Wachovia, Jackson EMC, Georgia Power, Gwinnett Hospital System, Jordan Jones & Goulding, Rock-Tenn Co., as well as hundreds of other business leaders, are providing much of the financial backbone for this event through corporate sponsorships and encouragement of employees to play a vital role.

They and the hundreds of other volunteers are making a real difference in our world.

The Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce is teaming up with the Gwinnett Center, which includes Proof of the Pudding, Gwinnett Convention & Visitor's Bureau, the Gwinnett Arena, and the Gwinnett Gladiators to raise money for the event. The Gwinnett Center's campsite will boast a "Survivor" theme where the challenge will be to raise money to help fight cancer and the reward will be saving lives! Be sure to stop by our campsite for your chance to win one of our grand prizes, which includes two roundtrip Air Tran tickets to any domestic location of your choice, Jillian's happy hour for you and a few of your closest friends, and tickets behind home plate to an Atlanta Braves game!

As the signature activity for the American Cancer Society for the last 19 years, the Relay For Life initiative has spread to 3,800 communities in the United States and eight foreign countries. In typical fashion, Gwinnett County has led the way. The Gwinnett Relay For Life was the first one to raise over $1 million, and the first event to raise over $2 million. At last year's event there were an astounding 530 teams and 1,350 survivors who collectively raised $2,107,998! The Gwinnett Relay alone has raised over $12 million in the past 11 years. At this year's Relay For Life we hope to "Keep the Dream Alive in 2005" as we strive to continue to raise money and awareness for the American Cancer Society's mission of fighting cancer.

Because Relay For Life is a community-gathering event, anyone and everyone can participate. Teams form from businesses, civic clubs, families, friends, hospitals, churches, schools, and service organizations. Team members share a common purpose - to support the American Cancer Society's mission "to eliminate cancer as a major health problem by preventing cancer, saving lives and diminishing suffering from cancer, through research, education, advocacy and service." You can be a part of this mission by becoming involved or giving of your time and resources to Gwinnett's Relay For Life. For more information, call our American Cancer Society office in Gwinnett at 770-814-0123.

Jim Maran is the president and CEO of the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce.