The community came together at Veterans Memorial Park April 27 to support their loved ones who survived cancer, honor their loved ones lost to cancer and to raise money for a cure.
Cameron Lopez, community development manager with the American Cancer Society, said that $14,178.10 was raised in the five hours that Relay for Life took place. So far this year, $65,044.07 has been raised for the American Cancer Society, exceeding the $65,000 goal with more fundraisers planned in the spring and summer.
“I am so thankful to Dawson County for supporting the Relay for Life movement,” Lopez said. “Friday night was evidence of this community’s commitment to the fight against cancer.”
It was a night of celebration and remembrance for many as the survivors and teams walked their ceremonial laps.
Team Susan came out in full force, as friends and family of Susan Williams, a longtime Dawson County resident who lost her battle to breast cancer in January, made t-shirts and were selling CDs of the song “Mess into a Message.”
Williams’ sister, Nancy Carter, said she wrote the song for her sister after she was inspired by her message. Williams always wanted to turn the mess that is cancer into a message for the world. And thanks to her family, her message will live on.
“This is what she believed in. This song is about how God turned a mess into a message,” Carter said.
The song was recorded by Dawson County Junior High School chorus teacher Kevin Woody last December. He performed the song during the luminary walk this year.
The biggest draw during the evening’s festivities made people smile and laugh, and served as a reminder that Relay for Life is a celebration full of hope: The “Pie in the Face” fundraiser, which was a first for the Dawson County Relay for Life.
Public officials including Sheriff Jeff Johnson, Dawsonville City Councilman Jason Power, Clerk of Courts Justin Power, BOE members Roger Slaton and Karen Armstrong, Tax Commissioner Nicole Stewart and Representative Kevin Tanner lined up, prepared for pies to be flung at their faces.
Before the “Pie in the Face” began, Armstrong was excited to volunteer her face as a target for the pies.
And after the pies stopped flying, Armstrong was all smiles.
“It was a lot of fun,” she said with a grin.
Rep. Kevin Tanner wiped whipped cream from his eyes and described it as a “very creamy experience.”
Young children, encouraged by their parents, lined up in droves and were eager for the chance to pie public officials.
Tiny tot Alena Sewell, 2, stole the show when the “Pie in the Face” fundraiser began as she made her way to all the public officials and gingerly placed her plate of whipped cream on their faces. The smiling toddler couldn’t contain her happiness and came running back with more and more pies, causing the gathered crowd and the officials covered in whipped topping to erupt in laughter. Sewell also grabbed a towel and helped to wipe off Justin Power’s face after she pied him.
Six-year breast cancer survivor Janice Blalock couldn’t hold back her laughter as she pied every official in the lineup.
“It was a lot of fun and it goes to a good cause,” said Blalock.
It was Blalock’s fifth year at Dawson County Relay for Life. She said she was lucky to have caught her cancer early through her yearly mammogram, and stressed the importance for all women to get their yearly mammogram as it can save their life.
Northside Hospital was the presenting level sponsor for this year’s Relay for Life, and Dr. Larry Anderson of Anderson Family Medicine took the stage to address the crowd with an important message to survivors.
“I applaud the courage that it took for you to recognize you know that something was wrong and to go through the therapy and get it treated,” said Anderson.
He added that the “See something say something” message he saw at the Atlanta airport also applies to early signs of cancer.
“You’d be surprised at how many cancers you can see just by looking at somebody. You can look at granddad and say ‘That flaky thing on your ear, you need to get it looked at,’” said Anderson. “We’re very fortunate to live in a county that has a great deal of physicians that are able to do early diagnosis and initiate treatment. We have great imaging centers for MRIs, CTs, ultrasounds and mammograms so take advantage of those.”