For six hours, they walked.
The rain came, but they walked. Night fell, and still they walked.
“We know that cancer is a disease that comes into peoples’ lives and doesn’t let up, and Relay for Life used to be an overnight event because cancer doesn’t sleep, so we don’t sleep,” said Brooke VanBuskirk, senior community manager for the fundraising organization arm of the American Cancer Society. “Just like that concept, just because the weather might not be perfect, we still Relay. Why? Because cancer doesn’t take a break when our loved ones are going through their cancer journey.
“They continue to fight when they are worn down and tired of this disease. So rain or shine, we Relay, and we think about our loved ones and fight back for them.”
On Friday, May 5, Relay for Life of Forsyth County held its signature event at the Cumming Fairgrounds, one of the American Cancer Society’s largest annual fundraisers.
It also held an inaugural 5K race, where, once completed, participants received a taco to celebrate the Mexican holiday Cinco de Mayo.
While the overarching event saw a smaller turnout than in past years due to stormy weather, VanBuskirk said the night, where participants took turns walking laps around a track from anywhere from six to 24 hours, was still a positive experience.
“A lot of [survivors] and patients are still going through treatment and can’t be out in that type of weather, so we only had about a quarter of survivors and caregivers and the teams didn’t do as well,” she said. “I tried to visit all the teams on Friday and apologize for the bitter cold, wind, and rain, but the overwhelming positive attitudes were heartwarming.
“From many, I heard ‘this weather is nothing [compared] to what a cancer patient goes through.’”
In late January, the Forsyth organization held a kickoff event at Northside Hospital-Forsyth, where they announced a fundraising goal of $275,000.
Prior to the event, Relay teams had raised about $190,000, with participants raising an additional $14,500 onsite, bringing the total to about $205,000.
VanBuskirk said the $14,500 is about two-thirds of what the event normally brings in, prompting the county’s Relay staff to consider hosting additional fundraiser events this summer, though nothing has been decided yet.
She added people can still donate to the cause.
At Friday’s event, VanBuskirk said a member of the Northside Forsyth team who had committed to shaving her head if the team raised $10,000 followed through with the promise, much to the entertainment of participants.
She added the inaugural 5K was a success and that the staff plans on continuing the tradition.
For more information about Relay or to donate, visit relayforlife.org/forsythcountyga.