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Relay for Life set for April 26


By Melissa Robinson
Contributing Editor 

  Henry County’s Relay for Life event co-chair Carri Halcome has been participating with Relay for Life for nearly two decades. A teacher at Timber Ridge Elementary, she began supporting the effort in Clayton County. Her involvement was personal. As a teacher, she worked with five teachers who were struck with cancer. She said they were very close friends and all participated in Relay for Life together. Unfortunately, four of them are not here today to relay. She said she also participates because of her sister, who is a survivor.

This year’s Relay for Life will be held at Ola High School on April 26 starting at 7 p.m.                                        Special photo

  “My friends can’t relay any more, so I do it for them,” said Halcome, fighting back tears. “It’s been so many years, but I still get emotional.”

  She said the main goals of Relay for Life are to celebrate survivorship, remember those lost to cancer and support finding a cure.

  “It’s life changing. Just come and I promise you, it will change you forever and you’ll want to come back year after year,” she said.

  Relay for Life is an organized, overnight community fundraising walk that raises money for cancer research. It’s a twelve hour event where teams and individuals camp out at a track and members of each team take turns walking around the track to raise money. It’s a family friendly environment where all members of the community are encouraged to come out and take part, even if only for a little while. There will be food, games, vendors, fundraising booths, bounce houses, music and entertainment.

  “We have Relay Olympics, a corn hole tournament, a Mr. Relay pageant where men dress up, as well as many vendors and the world’s greatest DJ,” said Halcome. “It’s a night to remember as well as to celebrate.”

  Relay for Life got its start in May 1985, when Dr. Gordy Klatt walked and ran for 24 hours around a track in Tacoma, Washington, ultimately raising $27,000 to help the American Cancer Society. The following year, 340 supporters joined the overnight event, and since then, the Relay For Life movement has grown worldwide, raising more than $4 billion to fight cancer.

  Henry Countians have been walking for the past 17 years, the last three at Ola High School in McDonough. Schools, businesses and groups participate in mini Relay for Life events and special fundraising efforts, such as Spirit Nights, throughout the year, and those efforts culminate at the big event, this year to be held on April 26 at Ola.

  The 12-hour event kicks off with opening ceremonies, which begin at 7 p.m., and festivities take place throughout the night and early morning, with the closing ceremony at 7 a.m. on Saturday morning. A survivors’ dinner takes place earlier in the evening.

  “The survivor dinner is special. We seat approximately 800 people and Shanes’s Rib Shack caterers the event for free,” said Tonya Brantley, co-chair for the event. “They have been a huge supporter of this cause and we are so grateful, as we are to all of the businesses and organizations who support it.”

  Brantley, also a teacher at Timber Ridge Elementary, has also been involved with Relay for Life for the past 17 years, first in Gwinnett County and for the past 10 years, in Henry County, where she was born and raised.

  Her involvement was also personal. Her grandfather passed away from cancer when she was young and she never got to know him. Ten years ago her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and after that, a best friend. Both are survivors.

  “I don’t want anyone to suffer with this disease and I don’t want children or families to lose anymore loved ones,” said Brantley.

  She said the event has grown and is always a great success thanks to the sponsors, teams and individuals who come out to support it as well as area businesses. She is also proud of the fact that every year, Relay for Life gets 100 percent participation from Henry County Schools, whose leadership makes great efforts in raising money to help find a cure.

  She encourages the whole community to come out for what promises to be a life-changing night and said there is no cost to go, but there are plenty of opportunities to donate and support. She said food vendors agree to donate fifty percent of the night’s proceeds to Relay for Life and teams set up booths with activities or goods for sale to raise money. There will also be luminaria bags for sale to pay tribute to someone lost or affected by cancer or to support a survivor.

  “We want everybody to come out to Henry County’s Relay for Life, and even if you come for a short time, that’s great, but if you stay all night, you’ll be hooked,” said Brantley.

  For more information, to donate to a team or to purchase a luminaria, please visit



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