Relay for Life
When: 7 p.m. Friday to 7 a.m. Saturday; gates open 5:30 p.m.
Where: Road Atlanta, 5300 Winder Highway, Braselton.
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The teams descending upon the Road Atlanta track in Braselton this weekend aren't driving fast cars, but they are reaching for a finish line. That finish line is a cure.
On Friday 2,000 team members — a quarter of them cancer survivors — will march in the 18th annual Hall County Relay for Life, remembering those lost to cancer and those still fighting it.
The event is expected to draw 16,000 visitors, who will stay up all night participating in festivities as team members complete lap after lap.
But this year team members aren't just tying up tennis shoes, they're pumping up wheels — sort of.
A special parade of hand-built non-motorized cars will make a lap around the track, highlighting the American Cancer Society's Road to Recovery program, which provides cancer patients with free transportation to and from treatment appointments.
"It's one of the many free services we offer for patients out of our office," said Eliza Baker, community manager for the American Cancer Society.
After the parade, the makeshift cars will ride among the crowd with donation jars, and the team that collects the most money will be the parade winner.
"It's a really creative thing for the teams, but it does raise awareness for the services we provide," Baker said. "We're looking for (driver) volunteers, too."
Hall County Relay for Life teams have raised $350,000 for the American Cancer Society's cancer research and patient programs — more money than ever before the major spring event.
Relay co-chair Gail Schneider said the donations are "a testament to those who are continuing to fight this disease. Especially with the economy (still recovering), it's amazing."
The Relay for Life opening ceremony begins at 7, as an expected 700 survivors are given the opportunity to walk the track, symbolizing their journey in fighting cancer — whether it's been one day or 59 years.
"If you have overcome one minute of the fight against cancer, you're a survivor," Baker said.
After the first lap, caregivers will be allowed to join. Then the relay teams, many who have been raising money since September, will begin take a lap as a team. For the remainder of the night, one member of each team will walk the track. The laps will only pause during the Luminary Ceremony, when the track will be lined with tea lights in honor of those lost to cancer.
The event is more than a remembrance, it's a celebration of life.
JB Jams will provide entertainment again this year, and there will be dancing, karaoke, games and competitions until 7 in the morning.
"It's jam-packed with things that are family friendly and keep everybody moving all night," Baker said.
Relay for Life began 25 years ago as a man walked or ran a track for 24 hours to raise money for the American Cancer Society. Hall County's Relay is overnight, symbolizing the constant need to search for a cure.
"Cancer never sleeps, and neither to we as we celebrate and remember, and fight back against the disease," Baker said.
Baker recommends visitors attending Friday's Relay for Life arrive by 5:30 p.m. so they have plenty of time to navigate traffic coming into the event.
Teams will already be selling food and drinks.
Cancer survivors may register when they arrive to walk in the first lap.
The event is also in need of volunteers. Volunteers can put in as much time as they are able and are not required to stay the entire night.
For those unable to attend, Relay for Life is still accepting donations; the organization hopes to raise $450,000 by Aug. 31, when the relay year ends.
"We don't look for a lot of deep pockets, we just look for a lot of pockets," Baker said. "You don't know which five dollars with be the five dollars that ultimately finds the cure for cancer."