Shirley Hawkins has a long list of reasons to support Relay for Life.
"I originally started relaying because of my son's young friend when they were children who had leukemia," she said. "Then I lost a brother to brain cancer, and I lost my dad in 2004 to liver cancer."
As a two-year breast cancer survivor herself and current American Cancer Society advocate, Hawkins said she will do everything in her power to help put an end to the disease.
"This is something I truly believe in. I've been a champion for the newest cancer prevention study," she said Friday night at Dawson County Veterans Memorial Park, where hundreds gathered for the annual relay.
"I believe we can find a cure for the disease, so I'm doing everything that I can to try to reach that goal."
Relay for Life in Dawson County collected nearly $50,000 this year for the American Cancer Society.
"I think it's fabulous that so many people in our community are having so much fun, while raising money for such a great cause," Hawkins said.
Among the supporters was Dawson County High School senior Forrest Erhlich, who dedicated the first-place winnings he received for being crowned Miss(ter) Relay for Life to his late stepfather, who succumbed to the disease in 2000.
"His name was Dennis McHale, and he was a very great man," Erhlich said. "I dedicate my life to him. I make sure that I stay strong in whatever I do for him."
Friday night's event began with more than 130 cancer survivors taking a lap around the track and concluded with a candle-lit dedication lap in honor of those who lost their battle with the disease.
"I know probably everybody that's here has been touched one way or another by cancer," Hawkins said. "If nothing else, it's a big celebration for us all to come out and remember each other and support each other, and to honor those that we have already lost."
The event also featured dozens of team booths offering a variety of activities and entertainment for the entire family.