Put Up a Fight!

Food, fun, friendship and fight: It’s Relay for Life time in Garner!

Set for this Friday and Saturday, join locals as they team up to offer unique fundraisers from their trackside campsites all through the night. Past fun has included everything from pay-to-play video games on a giant screen to dance school students clogging for donations.

“It’s like a fair atmosphere, with music and a DJ; the entertainment is constant the whole time, and there’s really good food,” said event chair and cancer survivor Jill Cottengim. “It’s always been fun.”

The signature fundraising event of the American Cancer Society, Garner’s Relay event has grown to become one of the largest in the area, and earned the esteemed All-American Relay award in 2009.

Held at Lake Benson Park, Garner’s Relay has raised almost $2 million since its inception, averaging about $160,000 each year. The dollars largely stay in this area, funding cancer research and ACS patient programs such as Look Good … Feel Better and Road to Recovery.

“It’s like a well-oiled machine; everybody knows what their job is, and gets it done,” said event chair and cancer survivor Jill Cottengim. “We have people working on Relay who have been in it since the beginning.”

The top fundraiser each year is Garner United Methodist Church’s Cooking for a Cure team, which averages more than $30,000 in donations annually through sales of hot dogs, hamburgers, home fries, chicken wings and breakfast biscuits.

The Relay event itself begins each year with an inspirational first lap around the track taken by cancer survivors. Caregivers walk next, then each team keeps at least one person on the track at all times during the overnight event — because cancer never sleeps.

The touching Luminaria Ceremony honors individuals who have been affected by or lost their lives to cancer, and on Saturday morning is the Kids Walk.

“It’s a tight-knit community feel,” said Cottengim. “Garner rallies around just about everything, and we’ve grown a lot in the number of participants, teams and survivors taking part. Organizers from the ACS say it’s their favorite Relay to attend; they think it’s amazing.”

Relay for Life draws the community together against a common enemy, she says.

“There are lots of charities people can give to, but when you think about it, we are all affected by cancer in one way or another — yourself, a family member, a co-worker,” she said. “The disease doesn’t discriminate. The more money we raise, the fewer people we will lose to it.

“It’s amazing to see, in the 14 years since I was diagnosed, how things change in diagnoses, treatments, and new drugs,” Cottengim added. “I want cures for all cancers, and for people to learn more about prevention.”

Garner Relay for Life opening ceremonies are at 6 p.m. on Friday, April 27; the event concludes on Saturday at noon. For more information, visit garnerrelay.org.

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