Annual Relay for Life coming to Hampton High School Friday

By Jason A. Smith
Times Correspondent

A celebration three decades in the making is fast approaching, as hundreds of people in the local community join forces in the fight against a deadly disease.

Crowds await the start at a previous Relay for Life. Special photo

The Henry County Relay for Life is scheduled for Friday at Hampton High School, 795 Hampton-Locust Grove Road. The nationwide event, which marks its 30th anniversary this year, is the signature fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, says Nola Crane, publicity chairperson for the local Relay event.

“It’s designed to accomplish our community getting together to find a cure for cancer,” she says. “It’s a fun night. We’re all celebrating the work that we’ve done through the year to get donations.”

Relay for Life will kick off with a Survivor Dinner at 5:30 p.m., in the school cafeteria. Cancer survivors – each accompanied by one caregiver – will be treated to dinner from Shane’s Rib Shack. Opening ceremonies will begin at 7 p.m., with a survivor walk, in which cancer survivors take the first lap around the track at the school.

“Then their caregivers will join them to take a lap around the track,” says Crane. “There will be a team parade around 8 p.m., as the teams pick a theme that has to do with 1985 and dress the part. There are prizes for the most creative team for the parade, and the teams also decorate their campsites and a prize is given for the best campsite.”

One of many memorable moments in Relay for Life centers on a Luminaria Ceremony at sundown. That, Crane says, is when local cancer survivors will be honored, and attendees will take time to remember those who lost their lives to the disease.

“Participants will circle the track that is surrounded with glowing luminaria that bear the name of someone who has battled cancer,” says Crane. “Luminary bags can be bought up to the night of the event or you can go on line at to purchase them.”

Crane adds that approximately 1,500 luminary bags are sold at the local Relay for Life each year.

In addition to Shane’s Rib Shack and Piedmont Henry Hospital, area schools and churches are among the organizations banding together to sponsor the occasion. Crane says the local relay has had a good response from the Henry County community over the years.

“We usually have somewhere around 2,500 people come that night,” she says.

So far this year, 113 teams have signed up to participate in the relay. Each team, says Crane, will be asked to have a representative on the track at all times during the fundraiser.

“Relay will continue on through the night, and the closing ceremony will be held at 1:30 a.m.,” she says. “Funds raised at Relay help the American Cancer Society get even closer to bringing an end to cancer.”

Relay for Life launched across the country in 1985, with Henry County holding its first events under the ACS banner more than 25 years ago. Crane, who is part of a team from McDonough Presbyterian Church, says she became associated with the annual event 16 years ago, in honor of her late daughter, Kim.

“My daughter passed away from melanoma cancer 22 years ago,” says Crane. “So that’s why we got involved with it, so that we can find a cure and nobody else will have to go through what we did.”

ACS is the largest nonprofit funder of cancer research in the country, says Catherine Myers, the organization’s community manager for Henry, Clayton and Butts counties. She says the Relay for Life is one way local residents have joined in the fight.

“In the last three years alone, Relay For Life of Henry County has raised over $1 million to help finish the fight against cancer,” says Myers. “Our event is made possible by the dozens of volunteers who help plan the event, as well as over 100 schools, businesses, families, and churches throughout the county and our goal this year is to raise $375,000!

She adds that other ACS services available to cancer patients in Henry include: Road To Recovery, which provides rides to treatment for cancer patients; Look Good Feel Better, which helps women deal with the appearance related side effects of cancer; the Hope Lodge, which gives patients a free place to stay for treatment options that are far from home; and Reach To Recovery, which connects breast cancer patients with fellow survivors through the treatment and recovery process,” says Myers. “On a national level, money raised through Relay For Life funds the American Cancer Society's 24/7 Cancer Information Call Center (1800-227-2345) and funds cancer researchers searching for cures.”

The Relay event at Hampton High will also feature a disc jockey, games, entertainment and a cornhole tournament. Crane adds that several local restaurants will host booths on the field at the school to offer food on the day of the event.

For more information, visit www.relayforlife/org/henryga. Additional details are also available on Facebook at Relay for Life of Henry County, or by e-mailing Jennifer Allen, ACS volunteer lead, at