The event opened with a dinner for survivors and those currently diagnosed with cancer. Afterward, 500 survivors and cancer patients took to the field to commence the relay with a victory lap.
In contrast to the celebration of life during the opening ceremony, the luminaria ceremony was a time for attendees to remember those people in their life who have died from cancer. For Gretchen Barkley, senior community manager for the American Cancer Society, this was one of the most poignant parts of the evening, which began just after dark and filled the park with the glow from 2,000 bags containing lit candles, each representing a life lost to cancer. The luminaria began with a lone bagpiper taking the first lap while playing “Amazing Grace” followed by Malachi, a 5-year-old cancer survivor, walking the second lap with his parents while carrying a lantern of hope.
The ACS awarded teams for a variety of accomplishments; Kennesaw Transport, Shaw and Cartersville Medical Center were the businesses that raised the most money. Non-business teams awarded for the highest pledges raised went to Hamilton Crossing Elementary, Team Heaton and Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church. Also, awards were given to White Elementary and Hamilton Crossing Elementary for campsite decorations and Deb’s Gang for best rookie team.