The 2015 Relay for Life season is officially under way in Dawson County.
The local arm of the American Cancer Society kicked off its new year with the theme "Racing to a Cure" at the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame on Jan. 15.
Relay for Life gives cancer survivors and supporters a chance to unite as a community to honor survivors, raise awareness of reducing cancer risks and collect funds to help the American Cancer Society.
American Cancer Society representative Brooke VanBuskirk said that the group wanted to take Relay in Dawson County to the community's grass roots.
"It's unfortunate that we have to have an event like this, but to see so much support from the community is great," she said "This is an amazing community and I know it will continue to do an amazing thing."
Survivors and caregivers gave their stories during the kickoff.
"My brother Jack, died from cancer in 1989, He is the reason I originally started relaying," said Shirley Hawkins. "He had an inoperable brain tumor and I often wonder, if he had been diagnosed in these times, would he be a survivor now, due to the amount of medicines and treatments we have today."
Hawkins also told about a young man with leukemia that she met through her son at his school.
"Mike, for years, fought his leukemia. They did all kinds of chemo and experimental treatments on him and, as a last ditch effort, gave him a bone marrow transplant," she said. "Mike now lives here in this community, right up the street from me."
After her father, and later herself, was diagnosed with cancer, Hawkins decided enough was enough.
"My father used to say ‘Lead, follow or get the hell out of the way' and that's how he raised his six kids," Hawkins said. "That's been my drive with Relay for Life. This is something we can all do."
Hawkins decided that she wouldn't sit idle, deciding instead to make a breast cancer survivor quilt to raffle off during the Relay in April.
"I'm offering this up to raffle off as part of my contribution. Let's get on with it. Let's get it going," she challenged the audience that night.
Also making its return this year is Dawson County Relay's "Purple Potty."
"The Purple Potty is the event leadership team's fundraiser," VanBuskirk said. "People can pay to put the toilet anonymously in people's yards or businesses and then that person pays to send it to another business or take it away. You can also pay ‘Plumber's Insurance' to make sure that you are safe from another hit for a month."
Prices for a potty "hit" are $10 remove, $15 to send and $20 for plumber's insurance.
The annual survivor's dinner is planned for April 9.
The 2015 Relay for Life event is set for 11 a.m.-11 p.m. April 25 at the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame. Currently, there are also plans for a car show to be held from 9 to 11 a.m. that day.
For more information about Relay for Life or to sign up, visit www.relayforlife.org/dawsoncountyga. To set up a Purple Potty hit, call Nicole Stewart at (330) 817-3529.