The competition for who would win the evening’s themed contests was spirited.
On a sun-splashed Friday evening, the football stadium at was overtaken by volunteers, participants and survivors for a Relay for Life fundraiser. There were tents, inflatables, dunking booths, food, bands and plenty of themes and slogans that tied into the overall theme: “.”
The event officially began at 5 p.m., and was scheduled to end at 6 a.m. on Saturday with a final lap. There were 45 teams that represented cities.
“We’re very pleased with the community support we’ve been given over the years,” co-chair Rusty Haygood said. “We expect a strong year this year.”
Haygood said that Oconee County raised about $157,000 last year, but this year’s figures wouldn’t be available until the end of summer. It is by far the biggest event fundraiser of the year, he added.
“Great community support, people coming out, will tell how successful this event was,” Haygood said as the event began with an initial survivor’s lap and team lap.
At the Disney tent, the theme was, “Searching for a magical cure in a place where dreams come true.”
Minnie Mouse, also known as Sharon Parsons, said she wasn’t sure if her team had a chance to win, but just enjoyed watching the kids have fun.
“Of course I want to win,” said Parsons, who works at Oconee County High School.
Along with several students at the school who have been impacted by cancer, Parsons said her nephew is fighting it.
“So I have even more reason to walk this year,” said Parsons, who has been involved since 2001.
Since she stayed up until 6 a.m. at the event for the first time last year, Parsons knows it’s difficult but, “especially high schoolers, you have to sleep with one eye open.”
At the Neptune, N.J. tent, Katina Buffa of the , said King Neptune and Co. are “weeding out cancer.”
Buffa’s daughter is a 15-year survivor of non-Hodgkins lymphoma, she said, and the gymnastics center also has an athlete battling the disease.
“That’s our passion, so we love to come out and support,” Buffa said.
For her part, Buffa said it’s not a problem to stay awake until 6 a.m.
“We’re going to be so entertained, it’s going to be hard to sleep,” she said.
King Neptune, or Nolen Wood, wore a crown, toga and a sword made out of foil. Wood said he hasn’t been personally touched by cancer, but he goes to church with Buffa and was glad to support.
After some initial hesitation, Wood agreed to wear the costume, as long as there wasn’t body paint involved.
At about 9:40 p.m., the stadium lights were darkened for about 10 minutes. Several luminaria were released into the night sky, and each represented someone who has battled cancer. The public address announcer asked for a silent reflection as the candle arrangement in the visiting stands was changed from “Hope” to “Cure.”