Walking for a Cure: Relay for Life

By: Alexis Westrick

The 2016 Relay for Life was held at the Coweta County Fairgrounds on Friday, April 29th. Every year, Coweta County hosts the relay to raise money for cancer research. In 2015, this location alone raised $178,000 in donations. This year, the goal was $186,000. Local musicians, schools, and volunteers flocked to the fairgrounds to support the fight for a cure.

There were a series of walks throughout the night. The first walk started at 6 p.m. and marked the official start of the Relay for Life. In this walk, survivors and caregivers walked a single lap around the track. Some were pushed in wheelchair due to either their ages or illnesses preventing them from finishing on foot.

Bystanders lined the sides of the track to provide encouragement and words of praise. At the front of the procession, the Torch of Hope was lit and led the way from start to finish.

hope torch
The Torch of Hope lit at Relay for Life in late April.

The torch is meant to provide encouragement and hope to those who have suffered and to represent the life they fight for. Throughout the entire night, the torch remained lit.

Dozens of organizations and volunteer groups gathered at the fairgrounds in the hope of providing support for victims and family members as well as to raise money for a cure. Many volunteers heard about the event through word-of-mouth, their churches and local businesses.

They set up booths around the track to sell food and crafts, and some even offered face painting and hairstyling. Many of the organizations were local, non-profit groups with members who have been affected by cancer in some form or another. Among the organizations that gathered this year were Piedmont Hospital, Evans Middle School, Coweta Animal Hospital and Zion Hill Missionary Baptist Church.

Newnan High School’s Beta Club participated in this year’s run by selling snow cones. Thirty-two of NHS’s members volunteered from 5 to 10 p.m.on Friday night to help raise over $200. Several of the students participated in the walk and assisted the American Cancer Society in selling Luminaries.

The Luminaries are a dedication to all of those who have fought the battle with cancer. Family members may purchase them in honor of, or in memory of, their loved ones. Names are written on the bags that line the track, and some even include a heartfelt note or words of encouragement. At nightfall, the bags were lit from the inside with glow sticks for the final walk.

Patricia Wilson, a volunteer for the American Cancer Society, stated that “it is one thing I can do. I’ve had a lot of family members battle cancer.” The Luminaries allow people to remember those they have lost and raise cancer awareness.

Three East Coweta freshmen began their own volunteer organization and led a group selling fried Oreos. Gracie Martin,  Emily Prosser and Sarah Warburton, started Limitless Coweta, a non-profit organization to assist cancer patients with non-medical needs, including grocery shopping and paying rent. The organization helps teens get involved in volunteer work and make connections in their community.

When asked what motivated them to found the group, Prosser stated, “God led us to it.”

Each girl has felt the effects of cancer through family members and felt that the volunteer work was the perfect way to make a difference. Along with the fried Oreos, the girls also wore purple tutus in support of the fight against pancreatic cancer.

One of the local musicians that performed on Friday night was Tyler Wallace, NHS senior. He sang several well-known songs and some of his own, also performing “Breathe Easy,” a song that described cystic fibrosis and the hardships it inflicts on a person’s life.

Wallace commented on the song and cancer as a whole saying that “it’s about stopping and breathing, knowing that it will be okay and that someone is there to hold your hand.”