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Hall Relay for Life expects 17,000
Event starts at 7 p.m. Friday and lasts until 7 a.m. Saturday
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Hall County Relay for Life

When: 7 p.m. June 1 to 7 a.m. June 2
Where: Road Atlanta, 5300 Winder Highway, Braselton
Contact: Andrea Shoemaker, 770-297-1176 ext. 29065 or visit www.hallrelay.org

You don’t have to be a scientist or a doctor to help find a cure for cancer. You just have to walk.

Some 17,000 people are expected to attend the annual Hall County Relay for Life this Friday and Saturday at Road Atlanta in Braselton.

“We’re going to make cancer a name that is associated with the past, not the present or the future,” Andrea Shoemaker, senior income manager for the Hall County American Cancer Society, said.

Shoemaker said it’s been amazing to see the level of support people in Hall County have given to the cause. The group has raised just over $300,000 of its $466,000 goal.

“It may look like a number but that number represents what can be done for cancer victims,” Shoemaker said.

From research to preventive testing, Shoemaker said, the American Cancer Society saves 50 lives a day.

The money will go to help fund grants for cancer research and provided much-needed services for those battling cancer.

The event will begin at 7 p.m. and last until 7 a.m. Several bands will play during the night to entertain those walking. Children can play in bounce houses and have their hair made up in funky designs. Many of the teams will be selling hot dogs and hamburgers to raise additional funds.

Shoemaker said that families can attend and have a lot of fun for the same price as a dinner out.

“It’s really exciting, too, because you can do a lot of fun things and it doesn’t cost very much to have a fun family time,” Shoemaker said.

The highlight of the evening will take place at midnight with the annual Miss Relay pageant. Male contestants will wear evening dresses and lip-sync to try to raise money. The man who raises the most will be crowned Miss Relay.

The event is sure to entertain but will also provide moments to remember and honor those who have been victims of the disease.

The first lap around the track will be walked by survivors. Those who have battled and lived through cancer are given purple shirts to wear. Shoemaker said this can be one of the most moving experiences of the night.

“You’ll see kids that are small and they wear the shirt that’s too big for them. It looks like a little dress. It’s very inspirational,” Shoemaker said.

After the first lap, their caregivers will join and after that teams and individuals can walk along the track. Ideally someone from each team will be on the track all night.

At 10 p.m., the lights will turn down low and the music will stop. Hundreds of candles will be lit for the luminaria ceremony in memory of those who died and in honor of those who have lived.

“It’s a beautiful time but it’s also a time of empowerment because we can see we are fighting back. We’re not giving up,” Shoemaker said.

Gail Schneider, co-chair of Hall County Relay for Life, has seen just how much difference these events can make.

Twenty-eight years ago, Schneider’s mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and her aunt with breast cancer.

Both died that year. Her mother was just 47 and her aunt was 45. The next year her grandfather died of cancer in his neck.

“Cancer pretty much devastated my family,” Schneider said.

Ten years ago, her sister was diagnosed with the same cancer that killed her mother. She was 52 when she died.

During the five years her sister battled cancer, Schneider said it was easy to see the improvements in cancer treatments.

“My sister had a much better quality of life,” Schneider said.

Her sister lived four years longer than her mother and never felt ill because of her treatments. Her mother was a frail 95 pounds when she died.

Schneider said she knows how important it is to get involved and do everything possible to find a cure. She said she doesn’t want another family to be torn apart by cancer.

“I don’t want them to go through what my family has gone through. So we have to find a cure for the disease,” Schneider said.