By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Cancer survivors and their supporters walk Road Atlanta to raise funds for a cure
0601RELAY 1
Walkers yell back at a speaker Friday evening before getting underway for Hall County’s 2013 Relay for Life at Road Atlanta. - photo by NAT GURLEY

To learn more

American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life: 770-297-1176,

Twelve years. Four months. Thirty-three years.

The numbers were shouted out as cancer survivors walked around the track at Road Atlanta in a victory lap at Hall County’s 21st annual Relay for Life.

Superhero survivors, caregivers and fundraisers gathered together at the event Friday night, all with one enemy in mind: Cancer.

The event is very moving, with participants taking time to both honor those lives lost to the disease, and to celebrate those who have survived. This year’s theme was “Superheroes Fighting Cancer.”

For Jenny Vonilla, a teacher at West Hall Middle School, her participation took on a double meaning.

“It’s one of those things, where I really wanted to get involved in the community, because I just moved here and started teaching here,” she said. “But, also, in November, my father was diagnosed with gastrointestinal cancer.

“So, this cause just became closer to my heart.”

Vonilla said the West Hall Middle School team has raised close to $3,000. At the event, they were tie-dyeing shirts for $5 to raise even more money.

Perhaps one of the more moving moments of the event is held at the beginning, when cancer survivors don their purple “Survivor” shirts, and walk a victory lap around the track.

Fifteen-year-old Sydney Wilson was celebrating six years being cancer free. She was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, a type of brain tumor.

She said the diagnosis did not scare her, but rather inspired her in her future career goals. “I want to be a nurse,” she said, saying that her experience was what helped her decide.

Fellow cancer survivor Sheila Nebors was celebrating her two-year anniversary of beating breast cancer.

“It’s just wondering, mostly, will it ever come back after treatment,” she said. “I would like for them to find a cure, so nobody has to go through ... everything you have to go through.”

So far, more than $250,000 has been raised toward the $430,000 goal, with final numbers still rolling in.

“But with the economy the way it is, if we get to $400,000, we’re going to be doing excellent,” Riddle said previously.

The mood at Relay for Life was festive, as a plane streaked a banner with the words “Superheroes

Survive” across the sky. Booths were lined up and down the paddock at Road Atlanta, with teams offering food and games, and people dressed up as superheroes, complete with masks and capes.

Also at the event, Rachel Joiner with the American Cancer Society publicly thanked those who have helped with the Cancer Prevention Study-3. The nationwide study will follow participants for 30 years, tracking their overall health to determine cancer indicators.

“The purpose of it is to find out what causes cancer, so that we can prevent it for our children and our grandchildren,” she said.

Gainesville has 378 participants enrolled for the study.

“It’s a big deal, and we did really, really well here, so we’re excited,” Joiner said.

The Relay event continued until midnight, a change from the usual routine of going throughout the night. The change was made to allow more people to stay for the closing ceremonies.

Regional events