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Relay for Life event sees largest turnout in 4 years
A-Relay for Life pic1
Past Dawson County Relay for Life Chairwoman Nicole Stewart joins current Chairwoman Kris Rowan and other organizers for announcements at the 2017 Relay for Life event on April 28. - photo by Allie Dean Dawson County News

When most booths were still being set up at 5 p.m. on Friday, Rhonda Stone was already walking steadily around the track at Veterans Memorial Park.

The cancer survivor said she would still be there walking when the Relay for Life event officially ended at 11 p.m.

Stone has, for the past 10 years, walked the track at the Dawson County Relay for Life celebrations, staying through the entire event whenever she could.

The 54-year-old was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 1985. She moved to Dawsonville 18 years ago from New York.

"There was a gentleman I met here, a survivor, who used to walk all night," Stone said. "When he died I just picked it up. I just commit myself to the walking, and walk all night."

Stone and the countless other attendees who either survived the disease, are battling it currently or watched loved ones do the same gathered at the Dawson County Relay for Life event on April 28 with the same goal: to end cancer.

The event raises money for the American Cancer Society and is as much a celebration of life and a remembrance of loved ones as it is a fight for answers and a cure.

Relay Chairwoman Kris Rowan said she is invested in the cause because she too has been touched by cancer, and knows the effect it can have on a life.

Rowan announced happily on Monday that the total amount raised so far for Dawson County's 2017 campaign is $59,500, just shy of the year's $60,000 goal.

Rowan said the campaign will end in September. The Dawson County group will be accepting donations online, at United Community Bank and at Rock Creek Park until then.

"This was the biggest turnout we've seen in four years," Rowan said of the Relay event. "We want to thank the wonderful community we live in for all their support."

Tim Satterfield, honorary chair of the event, is currently undergoing treatment for pancreatic cancer. The deputy chief of Dawson County Emergency Services was diagnosed in October.

"I'm proud to be the honorary chair, it's an honor to help support the cause" Satterfield said from the EMS tent, where he supervised the dunking of several of his coworkers and employees, including Chief Lanier Satterfield.

"You never think you'll have to go through it, but I'm going through it right now," Satterfield said. "And one of our battalion commanders, Jameson Kirby, he is a survivor too. We have a great group of guys to support us and who have just been with us through the whole process."

Satterfield said he is on his fifth month of shots and chemotherapy, with one month left to go. He said the support of his team and the community, as well as his family, has been indispensable.
"My mom is a 25 year survivor, and I got a lot of that fight from her," Satterfield said. "My family has been very supportive, especially my wife."

Satterfield participated in the cancer survivor lap, where survivors in attendance took a celebratory walk around the track with their loved ones. The lap was bittersweet for some, who would later light a luminary in honor of another who succumbed to the disease.

While serving as a fundraiser and vehicle to raise awareness, the event was also one for entertainment, food and fun.

Local groups and churches set up booths and sold food, drinks and desserts as well as provided games and activities for kids and adults alike. Bouncy houses and cotton candy, along with a dunk tank and cake walk amused younger event goers, while cupcake bingo and singing groups entertained older attendees.

The Dawson County High School ROTC color guard led the way for the national anthem sang by the Dawson County Junior High School chorus. The Bethel Baptist Church children's choir also sang a few songs, followed by Kevin Woody and Angie Smith with solo performances.

The large turnout meant many booths saw heavy traffic, with all but one booth running out of food by the end.

One thing is for sure, the event served as a yearly reminder of the importance of rallying a community together for a common cause.

"We couldn't have anticipated any better turnout," Rowan said. "I was impressed."