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Event to kick off Relay For Life

Photo by Heather Middleton

Photo by Heather Middleton

By Maria-Jose Subiria

msubiria@news-daily.com

Plans are already brewing for a much-anticipated relay event occurring in four months.

There will be a kick-off rally for the American Cancer Society Relay For Life of Clayton County, today at 6 p.m., at the Community Impact Center of Higher Living Christian Church, 2450 Mt. Zion Parkway, Suite 400, Jonesboro, said Lisa Cockerham, mission delivery manager for the American Cancer Society. Volunteers and participants will gather for the rally, to start fund-raising efforts for the year, she said.

"We try to generate excitement," said Cockerham. "We'll have some sort of activities."

Cockerham said that new and former team captains will have the opportunity to register their teams, learn fund-raising ideas and have their questions answered about Relay For Life, during the kick-off event.

She said goals for the 2011 Relay For Life of Clayton County event, will also be discussed during the kick-off event. The new goals include raising $70,000 in funds, having a total of 50 teams with 340 participants and recruiting 90 cancer survivors.

Currently, $8,000 has been raised, there are 21 teams with 115 participants and 18 cancer survivors, she said.

Southern Regional Medical Center and Fresh Express will be introduced as the first sponsors for Relay For Life of Clayton County, at the kick-off event, said Cockerham.

She said the event will recognize relay teams that participated in last year's relay event, will honor cancer survivors and introduce the 2011 committee members of the upcoming relay event.

Committee members will speak, and team members will share their interests in participating, during the kick-off event, added Cockerham.

"We are very excited to introduce Mr. Terry [Baskin], Clayton County Tax Commissioner, as our 2011 event chair," said Cockerham.

Baskin said he has positive expectations for the kick-off event, and is hopeful participants understand the importance of raising funds for cancer research and programs of the American Cancer Society.

"I feel blessed to take this challenge on," said Baskin.

Baskin said no one in his family has been affected by cancer, but he was urged by an official to become chair of the committee.

Cheryl Fincher, 2009 and 2010 chair of the Relay For Life of Clayton County committee, said the kick-off event is important, because it provides a variety of useful information for those interested in participating in the relay event.

"It takes many months to put [Relay For Life of Clayton County] together," said Fincher.

Fincher said there are many aspects that make up the entire relay event, including sponsorship, recruitment and entertainment.

"It takes a lot of planning and a lot of people to put the relay together," said Fincher, who has participated in Relay For Life for nine years.

Fincher said she became involved with Relay For Life, after her parents died because of cancer.

"It means that...I feel like I am doing something," said Fincher with enthusiasm. "It fills a void of losing my parents, and an aspect that I am fighting back...helping find a cure, so people don't have to go through the loss that I have."

Though she won't be involved in the committee this year, Fincher said she has already formed a relay team composed of eight participants.

Fincher added that it is typical for the committee's chair to serve a couple of years, before passing the torch to someone else.

Cockerham said that Relay For Life is the world's largest grassroots fund-raising movement, that brings communities together, throughout the U.S., to celebrate those who have survived cancer and remember those who have died because of the disease.

The 24-hour event is scheduled to take place from May 13, to May 14, at 7 p.m., at the Southern Crescent Stadium, 6231 Garden Walk Blvd., Riverdale. A variety of relay teams will camp out and take turns walking around the track, until 7 a.m., she said.

"This [Relay For Life of Clayton County] is a major event for funding," said Cockerham.

Fincher added that the 24-hour long walk around the stadium's track symbolizes the insomniac that is cancer.

"Walking during the night...symbolizes that when you have cancer, darkness takes over you," Fincher said.

Fincher added that the sun rising in the morning, during the relay event, signifies the defeat of cancer, and a light at the end of a dark journey.