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Purple passion: Volunteers gear up for Relay for Life fundraising
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Brenda Nix writes a note on the table cloth in honor of several family members and coworkers Tuesday during the Relay For Life Hall County Kickoff at the Gainesville Civic Center. As of Tuesday, the Hall County Relay for Life teams have raised close to $52,000 out of their $315,000 goal. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Brenda Thurmond lost her mom to cancer almost exactly three years ago. Before she died, the two participated in Relay for Life events.

“It was really instrumental,” Thurmond, who lives in Gainesville, said.

Thurmond originally got involved through Wrigley’s where she worked. Her mother had cherished her time in the organization, so Thurmond continues to be involved and attended the Tuesday night kickoff for this year’s Relay for Life.

“That’s my way of giving back,” she said.

She wasn’t alone at the Purple Passion Party, which was made up of volunteers like Thurmond who dedicate their spare time to fundraising for the organization.

“All of us in this room has a story,” Relay for Life senior community manager Rena Pendley said as purple Mardi Gras beads hung from her neck.

Pendley also encouraged the attendees to make sure Hall County knew when the relay was and to raise money.

“It’s a fundraising event and that’s not something we’re apologizing for,” Pendley said.

Every year, from Sept. 1 through Aug. 31 of the next year, there are several teams who work together to raise money for the year.

As of Tuesday, they have raised close to $52,000 out of their $315,000 goal. There are 66 teams with around 339 participants.

This money goes toward cancer research and funding Hope Lodges. The Hope Lodges provide a place to stay for cancer patients free of charge while they go through hospital stays.

It helped 44,000 cancer patients and their caregivers and provided 267,000 free nights of lodging in 2015.

The research is also an important aspect of the organization.

“I’ve seen what the power of our research can do,” Gail Schneider, experience lead for Relay for Life, said to the crowd.

This year’s walk will be 7 p.m. to midnight May 12 at the University of North Georgia, 3820 Mundy Mill Road, in Oakwood.

“They’ve been a wonderful host for us,” Schneider said.

Hall County Relay for Life’s theme this year will be Knock Cancer Off The Board.

Board games will be assigned to each team and their banners will be designed around the theme, including the team of Judy Reynolds.

The Gainesville woman has been gone to the walks and been involved for the past 15 years. Reynolds helps out however she can and sold T-shirts at the kickoff event.

Her hope is that the organization will be able to eradicate cancer within her children’s lifetimes.