Firm raises money for Relay event

LAWRENCEVILLE - Cheeseburgers, hot dogs and attorneys with pie in their faces were part of a Gwinnett law firm's event to raise more than $5,000 for the upcoming Relay for Life.

As the cream from the pie paralegal Terri Tesler threw at attorney Tom Andersen's face dripped down his shirt, the crowd at the Relay for Life fundraising cookout, hosted by law firm Andersen, Tate, Mahaffey and McGarity, applauded.

"It was a lot of fun," Andersen said, pie still smeared on his shirt. "What better way to raise money than to see a lawyer get a pie in the face?"

However, it wasn't an easy task to become the coveted pie thrower.

"You not only had to help the partner with the most money, you had to be the highest donor of the partner," Andersen said.

A second lawyer, Matt Smith, also received a pie in the face, courtesy of his assistant Jacqueline Delma.

In its seventh year, the cookout is expected to gross $5,000, which will be donated to the

American Cancer Society, event organizer Alissa Cummo said. On average, the firm raises $20,000 for the American Cancer Society each year.

Although not all the staff at the law firm walk in the event, which will be at the Gwinnett County Fairgrounds on May 12 and 13, more than half of the firm gets involved with fundraising.

Law firm staff member Sonya Conwell donated four hours of overtime pay to help raise money for Relay for Life. Others helped by baking desserts and side dishes, grilling hot dogs and hamburgers for the cookout and organizing the raffle prize baskets.

Andersen, Tate, Mahaffey and McGarity has been involved with Relay for Life since the early '90s when the firm only had about 10 attorneys, partner Tom Tate said.

Gwinnett County's Relay for Life is legendary because of individuals and local businesses. The county holds the No. 1 position in the world both in attendees and money raised. Last year's total hit $2.2 million, but this year the teams are shooting for $2.5 million.

Tate was inspired to have his firm involved in Relay for Life fundraising when his own daughter was diagnosed with leukemia at age 3.

"Now she's a 13-year-old who is a very healthy student and an athlete," he said. "You would never suspect she had cancer, but that's what got me interested, and the cookout has been great because it's unique to the firm and it's a great tradition."

So far Relay for Life Gwinnett has registered 278 teams and raised $350,000 in pledges. Relay for Life spokeswoman Cynthie Annie said those numbers are slightly ahead of this time last year, but more donations and teams are needed.

To get involved, visit www.gwinnettrelayforlife.org or call 770-814-0123.