The Valdosta Daily Times
All the small steps taken Friday evening and Saturday morning added up to one giant leap for cancer research at the 2012 Lowndes County Relay for Life.
Folks from all over South Georgia gathered at the Valdosta Middle School track to celebrate life, remember victims and provide support for one another.
There were 38 Relay for Life events going on across the state Friday, from Savannah to Columbus, from Valdosta to Roswell. In all, Randy Redner, Vice President of the Georgia branch of the American Cancer Society, estimates over $4 million will be raised over the 12 hour walk.
“We are rocking it against cancer tonight,” said Redner. “We fund more money for cancer research than any other non-profit. These people care; they give more than they ask. We need to leave it better than we found it for the next generation.”
According to Redner, deaths related to cancer have been on the decline since 1991. Over 12 million cancer survivors live in America today.
“We are winning the battle - slowly, but surely,” Redner said.
Next year will be the 20th anniversary of the Lowndes County Relay for Life. It will also be the 100th anniversary of the American Cancer Society.
“We have been at it for a century and the next century will be the century that ends cancer,” said Redner. “In the next generation, instead of survivors, we’ll have ‘pre-vivors,’ because we’ll be able to take action before they are diagnosed with cancer.”
Staff at the local event estimated that over 5,000 volunteers, survivors and care-givers were present Friday afternoon. Each carries a story; some with happy endings, others with only memories.
Redner got involved with cancer prevention fund-raising almost 16 years ago when he lost his father. He remembers playing golf one day and the next 90 days were filled with hospital visits and wheelchairs until he was gone, Redner said.
Event organizer Robbie Dickson also had a battle with cancer as well — only he survived. He expects this year’s event will raise over $289,000 — about $15,000 more than last year.
“The community comes out to celebrate life,” said Dickson. “They’re here because they know it’s all about survivors and care-givers.
Survivors have walked through the road of cancer and care-givers have walked their own road.”
Dickson went on to explain the difficulty care-givers can have. They want to help and provide comfort but can feel as though they can only watch as their loved ones suffer, he said.
Meg Booth’s story was extra special. She never thought she could become pregnant again, but discovered recently otherwise. Fourteen weeks later, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“They trusted God that their baby would be okay; that God was in control,” said Dickson to the audience as Booth was honored.
Booth and her husband Jeff later discovered they would be having a little girl. They chose to name her Elizabeth Hope.
“She was the hope that kept them going,” said Dickson. “We have hope. We celebrate life, that’s why we’re here. She has two reasons for hope, but her baby Hope is what saved her life.”
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