All had one thing in common. They were walking for a cure to cancer.
The 2009 Spalding County Relay for Life drew a massive crowd at Spalding High School’s track Friday night. A line of traffic led the way to the school’s parking lot and cars circled around and around in an attempt to nab a parking space.
It was Griffin oncologist Glen Morehead who greeted the walkers.
“We’re joining in tonight with over three and a half million people worldwide who are participating in Relay for Life,” Morehead said. “It’s especially gratifying to look out as a practicing oncologist to see the purple shirts of the survivors, some who I treated and some that others treated, young, old and even before they were born for the horrible disease of cancer. We’d like to congratulate every single survivor.”
Although the annual event is the signature fund-raiser for the American Cancer Society, there was no sadness in the occasion. Brightly-colored tents lined each side of the track and, at one point, it rained cows as Chick-fil-A Dwarf House flew overhead in a Spalding County Sheriff’s Office helicopter and dropped stuffed cows on parachutes.
But, the highlight of the night was the survivors’ walk.
Nine-year breast cancer survivor Mary Whatley walked for her eighth year.
“It’s just a blessing to be out here and see people celebrate life,” Whatley said.
Sisters Ida Harden and Lucille West walked together for the third consecutive year because cancer is an old enemy in their family. Both women are breast cancer survivors, but their mother, Helen Harris, died from liver cancer.
Two-year prostate cancer survivor Larry Gossett represented Sunnyside United Methodist Church as he carried its staff, which read, “Silver Cloud Mining Company.”
“We’re mining for a cure,” Gossett said as he began his walk.
But, just as important as the survivors were those who walked in remembrance of family members and friends.
Kelley Gregory and approximately 50 others walked as part of the Griffin Pediatrics crew. They walked in memory of Gregory’s cousin, Richie Jackson, who died from liver cancer in 2003 at the age of 35.
“You’ll see a bunch of these shirts walking around tonight,” she said, pointing to the shirt that bore a picture of Jackson’s face. “We’ve raised close to $2,000. Every month, we have lunch at Griffin Pediatrics and we all contribute and raise money for Relay for Life.”
The American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life is in its 25th year and focuses on the remembrance of those lost to cancer, the courage of those who face it, and the hope that one day there will be a cure.