Cancer Society honors top volunteer

Photo by Kristen Ralph

Photo by Kristen Ralph

SUWANEE -- During its annual Volunteer Awards Reception on Thursday at George Pierce Park, the Gwinnett Leadership Council of the American Cancer Society named Duane Downs winner of the 2009 Martha and John Adams Award.

The award is named after two long standing volunteers -- both of whom have passed away -- who spent many years working diligently for the organization and serving as role models.

"This is the highest honor we can give," said ACS Area Manager Randy Redner. "You just have to take a look at past recipients to see that this is a lifetime achievement award."

After being announced as the winner, Downs seemed surprised. He was more surprised when family members from Dacula, Charleston, S.C., and Charlotte, N.C., were brought in.

"This is special," Downs said. "I do believe we are winning (the battle against cancer) and everyone here is helping us win."

Redner said he has seen Downs, who is in his second decade of service, tell survivors, tears in his eyes, to never give up.

"And I've seen him at funerals ... saying, "We will never give up," Redner said.

In keeping with the theme of the Cancer Society, Leadership Council President Phil Hoskins said the evening was meant to celebrate the lives of those who have battled cancer, remember those who have been lost and empower individuals and communities to fight back against the disease.

According to statistics released by the ACS, $2,700,000 was donated to the Gwinnett chapter in 2009. More than 1,100 cancer patients were served in Gwinnett over the course of the year.

After a video presentation highlighting some of the fun times of 2009, organizers shared some of the accomplishments of the same year that included:

*The funding of a three-year Patient Resource Navigator position despite recent economic challenges. Volunteers are now looking at getting the next three years and possibly expanding the program in Gwinnett County.

*The Road to Recovery program, which provided cancer patients with almost 1,000 one-way trips for treatment and boasts more than 50 volunteer drivers.

*Raising more than $2 million dollars through the world's largest Relay for Life, bringing the 17-year total to nearly $25 million.

*Hosting the golf Tournament of Hope and the Pink Ribbon, both successful and growing events.