Taking up the fight

The American Cancer Society's Relay For Life in Gwinnett County 2005 has wrapped up, and once again this year, it's one for the record books. The event retained its status as the largest Relay event in the nation, attracting more than 12,000 participants and raising a record $2.2 million to fight cancer. This is the perfect time to say a heart-felt thank you to the thousands of dedicated volunteers, teams, team captains, cancer survivors and corporate sponsors who make the Gwinnett Relay such a success year after year.

Anyone who has experienced the Gwinnett Relay knows there's nothing else quite like it. Relay in Gwinnett has grown to become a phenomenon, with colorful team campsites and stages for entertainment covering the sprawling Gwinnett Fairgrounds for the overnight event. This year, more than 1,700 registered cancer survivors took to the track at the Gwinnett Fairgrounds to walk the first lap, with thousands of their families, friends and neighbors applauding and cheering them on. After dark, the luminary ceremony in memory of those who have lost their battles with cancer and honoring those who have survived touched the hearts of everyone there and reminded all of us why we do what we do.

The American Cancer Society is a volunteer-driven organization, which means that volunteers are the heart of everything we do. The Gwinnett Relay is no exception. Dedicated volunteers spend a large part of each year preparing for Relay. These volunteers are Gwinnett residents with full-time jobs. They're busy parents. They're caregivers. Often, they're cancer patients or survivors themselves.

Once again this year, the Gwinnett business community showed leadership and generosity for Relay through corporate sponsorships and participation by its corporate executives and employees. Examples include companies like Scientific-Atlanta and its employees which this year raised more than $95,000.

Gwinnett County has more school teams participating in Relay than any other Relay in the country. This year, 98 schools raised more than $1 million or almost 50 percent of the funds raised this year. Students, teachers, principals, coaches, even the administration take an active role. They're even willing to have a little fun for such a good cause, like Norcross High School Athletic Director Steve Emery who sat on the school roof for 24 hours after challenging his students to meet their fundraising goal (they exceeded their goal).

Relay in Gwinnett is much more than an event. It's an investment in research, which has already provided so many advances in the battle against cancer. It's an investment in the local programs that help cancer patients and their families cope. Programs like "Look Good ... Feel Better" to assist women with their appearance while they're going through chemotherapy and "Road to Recovery," which provides cancer patients with free transportation to and from their treatments. It's an investment in the 24-7 programs that provide a wealth of invaluable information and compassionate support like the American Cancer Society's 1-800-ACS-2345 number, our web site www.cancer.org or the Cancer Survivors Network.

Thanks to the many, many dedicated volunteers, Relay For Life in Gwinnett is making a significant contribution in the fight against cancer.

Randy Redner is Gwinnett area manager for the American Cancer Society. If you would like to know about local programs available from the American Cancer Society or if you want to volunteer, call 770-814-0123.