FLOWERY BRANCH -- This year's Relay For Life at Flowery Branch High School was the biggest one yet, and on the event's 15th anniversary in Hall County, many think it's possible to reach the goal of raising $500,000 for the American Cancer Society.
Relay For Life is an annual overnight event in which teams are formed to walk or run throughout the night in order to raise money.
Symbolically, it is to celebrate cancer survivors, remember those who have died from the disease and fight back by raising money for cancer research, said Dan Cox, relay logistics chairman.
"We're expecting between 5,000 and 7,000 people, but it's impossible to count," said Joy Green, American Cancer Society community manager.
Green said there were more survivors, teams and money raised at this event than ever before. The relay attracted people who attended in years past, as well as many newcomers.
Rodney Lackey was there with his team from Antioch Baptist Church. I've been coming out for the last four years now," he said.
Lackey started coming to Relay For Life in memory of his grandmother and said he planned to stay at the event all night. His 15-person team met its fundraising goal of $2,000.
Sam Rundell, a member of Team SKF, was at the relay for his eighth time. A lot of our co-workers over the years have been affected by cancer," he said. " And we do what we can to help out in the community."
His team will accept donations toward a drawing for either a four-wheeler or a scooter, and Hayes Chrysler Dodge Jeep donated a car to raffle off. The United Community Bank group raised the most money with $40,000, Green said.
At the beginning of the event, survivors take a lap together while onlookers cheer and show support.
"It helps to see all these people who've been through the same thing. It's the hardest thing I've ever done," said cancer survivor Lisa Fetty. She attended Relay for Life for the first time this year and said she has one week of radiation treatment left.
Eileen Hickman also attended for the first time. She is a four-time cancer survivor who overcame the disease most recently in January.
"They've come a long way with treatment in the last 20 years," she said. "I'm alive. I've beat it."
Some teams come up with clever names and ways to raise money. The Hall County Queens for C.A.R.E., which stands for Cancer Awareness Reaching Everyone, holds a pageant each year.
"It's twofold: We raise money for the American Cancer Society as well as teaching ladies of all ages the importance of volunteering," said Teri Lynn Brock, senior adviser for the group.
The group had 100 participants walking for someone they know, Brock said. Just after the event started, $426,000 had been raised.
"We're about $100,000 ahead of last year going into Relay," Green said.