Hundreds turned out for the Tift County Relay for Life, held Friday night at E.B. Hamilton Complex and Optimist Park. The crowds enjoyed entertainment, grilled hamburgers and hotdogs, sweet treats, games and lots of good, old-fashioned fun.
But the goals for the event were clear: wipe out cancer, and raise funds to make that reality.
The goal this year for Tift County's Relay was to raise $150,000, said co-chair for the event, Miles Drummond.
Together with his partner, Marlena Thomas, the pair worked with about 10 volunteers to plan the event. There were at least 40 teams signed up to participate, Drummond said. Teams worked to raise funds by having events such as cookouts, raffles, T-shirt sales and 5K runs.
After welcoming the crowd, Drummond and Thomas each spoke.
"We've been called the Reading Capital of the World. We've been called the Turfgrass Capital of the World. And one time, when I was driving down I-75, I think I saw a billboard that said we're the high speed Internet Capital of the World," Drummond said, as the crowd chuckled. "Now, I don't know if we can claim we're the Relay Capital of the World, but I do know that after this year, we can claim one thing – we are the town that continues the fight, year after year."
Drummond said that fight will continue, until a cure is found.
"Now, wouldn't that look good on a billboard on I-75?" he asked the cheering crowd.
"We're proud to stand here and do what other communities are doing. By walking the track this weekend, you are all joining with millions of people worldwide who want to save lives," said Thomas.
After the sun set for the evening, a luminary ceremony was held, during which those who have lost their battles to cancer were remembered and honored. Bags containing candles are lit, as well as torches.
In addition, glowing balloons were released, bearing names and messages. Both ceremonies are emotional and meaningful, Drummond said.
"Relay is known for the phrase, 'Celebrate, Remember and Fight Back.' Those aren't just words. Tonight, we will be together on a life-changing journey that will celebrate those that have battled cancer, remember the people we have lost, and renew our commitment to fight back to end this disease once and for all," he said.
There was no official total on the funds raised at press time, but watch The Gazette for details in the coming days.
To contact editor Angye Morrison, call 382-4321.