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Relay for Life kicks off fundraising season in Forsyth

FORSYTH COUNTY — Superheroes and people clad in purple filled the Lanier Technical College Forsyth Conference Center on Tuesday night to kick off the 2016 campaign for Relay for Life.

As one of the primary fundraising events for the American Cancer Society, the relay is held over a 12-hour period in May at the Cumming Fairgrounds, but Tuesday’s event served to motivate teams and encourage fun in the process.

“It provides something like 60 percent of American Cancer Society’s money,” said Mysti Thacker, event chair for the Forsyth County chapter of Relay for Life. “It goes toward patient treatments, services, ride that patients can get to cancer treatments. That’s the Road to Recovery. 

“It goes to wigs for patients. And the Hope Lodge takes in families so they don’t have the expense of having to pay for hotels during treatments.”

So far, according to the Relay for Life of Forsyth County website, 44 teams and 263 teams have raised $30,718.

Relay for Life was born in 1985 when Gordy Klatt walked and ran for 24 hours around a track in Tacoma, Wash., raising $27,000 to help the American Cancer Society fight cancer.

A year later, 340 supporters joined the overnight event. Since then, the movement has grown into a worldwide fundraiser, collecting nearly $5 billion to fight cancer.

Survivors, caregivers, fighters and Relay for Life teams attended the event Tuesday, where there was food, games, giveaways and information on the organization.

“We have several themes. The relay-wide theme, that’s paint your world purple, but we decided the county theme is superheroes because our patients, survivors and even their caregivers are superheroes,” Thacker said.

One such superhero is Dorothy Grindstaff.

“I’m a two-time cancer survivor. I had breast cancer and then five months later rectal cancer,” she said. “Back in December 2011, when I found out I had breast cancer, the first thing I asked them was, ‘OK, what’s my next step? It’s not going to take me, We’re going to take it.’”

Now she volunteers at Northside Hospital-Forsyth and raises money on a Relay for Life team.

During the event on May 7, there will be crafts, games, food, events and performances, and people can still get involved even if they are not on a team, Thacker said.

“I started by going to a meeting — I work for Northside — to get away from my area for lunch and joined a team. And that was four years ago and here I am,” she said.

“It’s a great way for my daughter — she’s here tonight, she’s 10 — and I, since we’ve been affected by cancer the way we have in our family, it’s a great way for her to fight back. It’s the vibe. It’s the energy.”

Grindstaff’s mindset stayed the course when she was diagnosed a second time.

“Then I had to get chemo. It’s a great place at Northside. The people make it so you don’t realize you’re sick. And you don’t think of yourself as being sick,” she said. “I never ever let cancer get the best of me. I never shed one tear either time they told me I have cancer.

“I didn’t want to give it the power over me. I come first. Cancer does not come first.”