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Relay for Life passes $2 million in funds raised, nears goal

LAWRENCEVILLE - Gwinnett's version of the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life event has been touted as the world's largest because of the money it raises and the number of people who participate.

After the 16th iteration of the relay which concluded Saturday morning at the county fairgrounds, Gwinnett's still numero uno.

"Any angle you look at it, it's the biggest one in the world," said Randy Redner, the area manager for the American Cancer Society. "It's not the peak of the fundraising we've done, but in this day and age with H1N1 flu and the economy, we've had a very successful event. We had more survivors participate than last year and that is key."

Redner said there are around 5,000 relays in the United States and said the event takes place in 27 countries.

In terms of money raised, he said the Gwinnett event had already topped $2 million by Saturday afternoon and said he felt confident the $2.5 million goal would be reached since the group will be accepting donations and pledges through August.

Redner said 8,000 people registered to participate through the event's web site - www.gwinnettrelayforlife.org - and he guessed 10,000 showed up. He said he heard some stories of people waiting 90 minutes in their vehicles to get from Interstate 85 at Sugarloaf Parkway to the fairgrounds.

He attributed the Relay's popularity to the spirit of Gwinnett's residents and said the feel it takes on is like that of a large family reunion.

"It's that one time of year where everyone comes together for a great cause and there is nothing else like it in Gwinnett county," he said. "It allows people to do something good and make a difference in people's lives here and across the country."

He said for himself, the highlight of the all-night event was when David Greer and 14-year-old Rachel Farley performed the debut of their song "All are our heroes" during the event's luminary ceremony.

"It was a show-stopper," he said. "It will help us remember this one."

He also praised all those who stayed up all night and supported the cause.

"To me, that is the true heart beat of the relay because cancer never sleeps," he said. "One day a year we'll stay up all night long because there is no rest for the people fighting cancer and going through it."