Relay sees all walks of life

LAWRENCEVILLE - More than 300 school children walked in support of their friends and family in Friday's first Kids' Walk. The walk, which wound around the Gwinnett County Fairgrounds, was part of the annual Relay For Life event that raises money to fight cancer.

Thousands turned out for three marches held Friday evening, each signifying individual affects of cancer - the Kids' Walk; the Survivors Walk for cancer survivors; and the Luminaries Walk for individuals who lost family and friends to cancer this past year.

"Kids are affected by cancer just like adults are," Gary Martin Hays said. "The whole theme for the walk was 'Kids can make a difference, too.' Kids are in schools and healthy, and they see their friends going through this battle. It affects them and this is how they help out, by walking for that fellow student."

Each student's goal was to raise $25 apiece.

"This year was not so much to make it a fundraising goal but to get as many kids as possible involved and participating," Hays said. "We built a good foundation for next year."

Hays walked in the Luminaries Walk to commemorate his brother, Chuck, who passed away last August at age 45 from colon cancer. A string of white paper bags filled with sand and holding the names of friends and family members were lit after dark for the 10 p.m. walk.

"It was a moving experience," Hays said. "I had watched my brother walk the Survivors Walk. This year I walked the Luminaries Walk. A bagpipe player led the march playing Amazing Grace. There were 11,000 people there and you could hear a pin drop."

About 2,000 survivors walked in the Survivors' Walk, Hays said. Although final numbers were unavailable at press time, organizers expected to raise $2.6 million for cancer research, education, advocacy and patient service programs sponsored by the American Cancer Society.