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Relay for Life returns with Carnival of Hope at fairgrounds

CUMMING — Come one, come all to the Carnival of Hope.

On May 2, Relay for Life of Forsyth County will be holding the Carnival of Hope from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. at the Cumming Fairgrounds.

Organizer Brooke VanBuskirk said that several teams will be setting up booths to help raise money for cancer patients and research while participants walk around a track.

“It is different teams that are school based, faith based, businesses that come and set up campsites around the fairgrounds,” VanBuskirk said. “They sell food and have games for the kids and have raffles and it’s all to raise money for the American Cancer Society.”

This year will feature a change to the Relay setup, which in the past had been an overnight affair.

“The community actually took a vote and they decided that they would like to move it to a daytime event,” VanBuskirk said. “That way, more of the community can participate. We used to do it from 6 p.m. [Friday] to 6 a.m. [Saturday], because cancer never sleeps, so this one night we don’t sleep.

“But we’ve seen a drop off in participation and families really couldn’t make it out after work [on Fridays], so we’re giving the opportunity to come during a 12-hour span [May 2].”

The 60 teams involved have made it well past the halfway point of what they hope to raise, and have a few more months to reach their goals.

“So far the teams and sponsors have brought in $135,000,” VanBuskirk said. “Our season doesn’t actually end until the end of August, and their goal is $235,000.

“That money goes toward funding researchers and also different patient programs. We’re one of the only nonprofits that has patient programs.”

According to VanBuskirk, the programs range from hotlines and car rides to lodging.

“We have a 1-800 number that people can call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, even on holidays,” she said. “Then we have in Forsyth County a ‘Road to Recovery’ program where volunteers in the community will pick up cancer patients and take them to their doctors’ appointments and home when they don’t have anyone else to take them

“We have the Hope Lodge in Atlanta, which offers a place to stay for cancer patients and a caregiver while going through treatment. We have ‘Look Good, Feel Better’ programs that help women with the side effects that they’re going through.”

Those who have battled cancer will be honored at two points during the relay. At 6:30 p.m., the group will hold the survivor and caregiver laps.

“All the survivors and caregivers come out and we hold an opening ceremony and have a guest speaker that is normally a cancer survivor or a caregiver,” VanBuskirk said. “All the teams stand around the track and celebrate their honor, that they have been able to celebrate another birthday.”

Then at 9 p.m., there will be a luminaria ceremony in memory of a loved one affected by cancer.

“We have that when it is dark out,” VanBuskirk said. “People in the community purchase luminaria, which are the white bags, and we put candles in those and light those, and they’ll say in memory or in honor of a loved one, and we take a lap around the track.”

The event will also feature activities for families including touch-a-truck display, games and food.

“It’s a community event,” VanBuskirk said. “It’ll give everyone a sense of what the American Cancer Society and Relay for Life are doing to end cancer. Families will definitely benefit. We have several children’s activities there to entertain them, as well as get something great to eat.”