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Overnight event set for Friday
Relay for Life pic
Kristie Pendley cuts Bob Queens hair last year to raise money for Relay for Life. - photo by File photo

At a glance

Dawson County Relay for Life

May 18 and 19, 7 p.m.-7 a.m.

Veterans Memorial Park

7 p.m. - Opening ceremony

7:15 p.m. - Survivor lap

10 p.m. - Luminary ceremony

7 a.m. - Closing ceremony

Relay for Life of Dawson County is scheduled to kick off its nightlong festivities at 7 p.m. Friday at Veterans Memorial Park.

In recent years, hundreds of residents have joined in the fight against cancer.

"Through this event the community gets a chance to relay to fight cancer and support survivors," said campaign co-chair Justin Power. "This event is the peak of all the efforts thus far."

Since beginning Jan. 26, Dawson County's campaign for more birthdays has grown to include 30 teams and more than 570 participants.

As of Monday, more than $51,500 has been raised through team events and donations. The 2012 fundraising goal is set at $90,000 following last year's success.

In 2011, the organization exceeded its goal by nearly $30,000 and ended the year by raising more than $87,000.

"I am looking forward to an incredible night," said Suzanne Hendricks, community manager for Dawson and Forsyth counties Relays for Life. "We hope the community will come out."

Responding to the year's patriotic theme declaring "Together we are United Against Cancer," relay teams have chosen states to represent for the overnight event.

Each team's state choice influences their booth offerings and activities. For example, Robinson Elementary's team, consisting of 35 members, will represent Washington with apple bobbing, apple pies and caramel apple treats.

Another team, Don't Stop Believing, will have Georgia on its mind when it offers pinto beans, sweet tea, peach pies, roasted corn, moon pies and more.

There will also be live music played throughout the night by the Coby Roffon and Rusty Nails bands.

Hendricks said she is always most excited for the start of the evening's laps around the track.

"For me that first lap by our cancer survivors is the most meaningful part of the Relay for Life event," she said.

The lap is meant to be an "inspirational time when survivors are invited to circle the track together and help everyone celebrate the victories we've achieved over cancer," according to Relay for Life's Web site.

After nightfall, the Luminaria Ceremony will honor people who have been affected by cancer and remember loved ones lost to the disease. Candles lit inside decorated, memorial paper bags line the track area.

A set goal for the evening is to honor more than 150 cancer survivors. Last year, the event engaged and honored more than 120 survivors.

Also, throughout the event there are numerous other festivities, including the Fourth Annual Lady Gaga Fashion Show, "Queen for a Day" Men's Beauty Pageant, Family Feud, jazzercise and the traditional purple glove dance.

Power said one of the most challenging aspects of the evening is the continual laps being made around the track by each team.

"The laps represent that cancer never sleeps, therefore we can't sleep either," Power said. "You make it through the night as a constant battle to get to Saturday morning."

Overall, Hendricks knows that like the battle with cancer, the evening can be long and tough for walkers, yet the energy surging from the activities and festivities offer encouragement.

She said she is proud of Dawson County participants.

"The excitement and enthusiasm has been amazing. We have been overwhelmed by the community support. It's been fantastic," she said.