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Relay for LIfe set for Friday
G3P3 Aline McClure and Roger Slaton

A display of hope and inspiration will be for all to see at this Friday's annual Relay for Life event, beginning at 5:30 p.m. at Veterans Memorial Park.

Cancer patients, survivors, caregivers, family members and friends will all gather at the American Cancer Society-sponsored event, all to raise funds for cancer research and treatments. The goal amount this year is $90,000.

This year's theme is "Tooning Out Cancer," with teams and individuals encouraged to dress up and act the parts of cartoon characters. "Some themes include Spongebob Squarepants, superheroes, 101 Dalmatians and the Smurfs," said Tasha Hamil, chair of this year's Relay event. She added that there are 28 teams, with over 350 people participating.

New for this year is that the traditionally overnight event with be held from 5:30-11:30 p.m., in the hopes that the new timeframe will attract more people.

"We were seeing less and less people nationally that were staying past midnight," explained Andrea Shoemaker, American Cancer Society community manager for Dawson and Hall counties. "We think the new times will be able to bring in more younger families, and maybe more survivors can come out as well."

The Dawson County Sheriff's Office has been a strong Relay for Life presence over the past couple of years. "We've had several employees here that have had cancer, and are cancer survivors," Sheriff Billy Carlisle explained. "We've even lost employees from cancer. We try to do our part to try to help with that research. It's also for the citizens of the county, because everyone is affected by cancer."

Shoemaker agreed. "Relay is a good time for the community to come together," she said. "All of us have been touched by cancer."

She said that cancer survivors and current cancer patients can pull strength from gathering in a community setting like Relay for Life. "They're able to really pull strength ... to say 'I can do this,'" she said. "I've had people come up to me and say that they felt they didn't really have any fight left in them, but coming to Relay gave them the strength they needed."

The entertainment schedule is not quite set for Friday's event, though Shoemaker says it's coming along. "We're trying to get everything done in six hours than used to take 12 hours," she said. "We're just kind of seeing how it's going to work this year."

Hamil said that approximately $30,000 has been raised so far toward this year's $90,000 goal.

"Relay for Life is the American Cancer Society's biggest fundraiser," she said. "We encourage everyone to come out and support our teams, honor our survivors, remember those we have lost, and celebrate our fundraising efforts!"