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Relay for Life, Gladiators make good team

With its largest-in-the-nation status, Gwinnett's Relay for Life is one of the county's signature events. And with its rabid fan base, the Gwinnett Gladiators have a true community connection.

So when those two entities got together this weekend, it's no surprise that the results were strong. The Gladiators had their second annual Pink in the Rink promotion to promote women's cancer awareness. And the unique part for the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life was the jerseys the team wore during the weekend games.

The jerseys had Relay for Life's name and logo on them, which was particularly meaningful to volunteers like Duane Downs, a member of Relay for Life's steering committee.

"It was neat to see that," said Downs, who attended Sunday's game. "It was cool. It was wonderful for the Gladiators to do that."

Relay for Life, a fund raiser for the American Cancer Society where participants walk to honor cancer survivors and remember those lost to the disease, is one of several charities that will benefit from the Pink in the Rink promotion. The event's jerseys were auctioned off after the game on Sunday, bringing in $33,000 according to Gladiators president and general manager Steve Chapman.

Chapman said it was the third-highest total the team has raised since it started auctioning off jerseys. He said Jordan Fox's jersey went for $3,000 and that several others went for $1,500 or more. In all, 24 jerseys were sold via the auction.

"I was very happy (with the results) with the way the economy is," Chapman said. "I had a lot of comments that people liked (the jersey's design).

"(Relay for Life) is a neat event, and hopefully we're doing our part to help publicize it."

Randy Redner, area manager for the American Cancer Society, said the Gladiators more than did their part. Redner said he was thrilled with the promotion, although he's a hockey novice.

"I'm a Southern boy so I don't know squat about hockey. But I'm liking it quite a bit now," Redner joked when talking about the publicity and money the event helped raise for Relay for Life. "We were certainly looking for novel ways to get the word out. This was a win-win for both organizations."

Downs, retired from National Cash Register and a volunteer for the American Cancer Society since 1994, was a charter member of Relay for Life. He got his bowling team, the Mixed Nuts, to participate in the inaugural event. The group has been at it ever since, and Downs has seen his share of promotions.

As a long-time volunteer, the Lawrenceville resident said he appreciated the partnership with the Gladiators, including Relay for Life's official kickoff earlier this year.

"We live in a great community," he said. "The whole community is like that."

E-mail Todd Cline at todd.cline@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column runs online on Tuesdays and in Wednesday's print edition.