COVINGTON -- If you thought you saw a purple toilet in the middle of your favorite restaurant or sitting in the lobby of a school, your eyes weren't playing tricks on you.
A Newton County Relay for Life team at Cousins Middle School is using the toilet to raise money for cancer research.
The team painted the toilet purple -- Relay for Life's colors -- and places it in a business office or school. Those who work in the office or school have a choice of donating $20 for the group to remove it and deliver it to another location of their choice or $10 for the group to remove it and eventually take it to a place that signed up with the school, said team leader Trista Hooten Young.
"It's been going great," she said. "We've got a great response." So far, the toilet has visited Indian Creek Middle School, Liberty Middle School, Veterans Memorial Middle School, the Newton County Board of Education, Amici Italian Cafe, the Covington YMCA and Todd Walker's State Farm Insurance, among other schools and local businesses.
"I was surprised, but I'm thankful to be able to help such a worthy cause and be part of a fun thing," Walker said when a team member recently delivered the toilet to his business. "It's a great idea -- a big purple toilet in your office will make you want to move it."
While at each location, the toilet sits in a front lobby or office area to collect donations; some businesses or schools also hold additional fundraisers using the toilet. At Indian Creek Middle School, staff members raised about $200 with people taking pictures with the toilet -- adorned with the school's colors -- and a panther head, the school mascot. Amici collected about $75 by simply putting a bucket out to collect money.
Walker said he hopes the business community will continue being involved and keep passing it along.
"It's a fun way to raise money for Relay for Life," he said.
The team hopes to move the toilet around to many other Newton County schools and businesses. It plans to have the toilet out around town until April, when the annual Relay for Life event is held in Newton County.
"If people would like to send it to businesses, just call the school," Young said. "We want to get the community involved."
The group also is raising money for Relay for Life by holding raffles and contests at the school.
Around Thanksgiving, the school voted to have Principal Scott Sauls wear a turkey costume. Young said votes cost 25 cents, and the school also raised $387 by having people pay to get a picture with him in the costume; they collected $445 total.
"We always try to get the kids involved," she said. "We want the kids to be part of this team, too."
Later this month, they plan to hold a vote for a staff member to wear tree and elf costumes before the school lets out for its holiday break.
"Our students and our teachers have fully embraced our Relay for Life team," Young said. "We are on our way to raising lots of money for cancer research."
By the time of the April event, the team hopes to raise several thousand dollars to help pay a first-year researcher's salary, Young said. She encourages the community to get involved with Relay for Life in any way possible.
"If cancer hasn't touched you yet, it's just a matter of time," said Young, who has lost family members and friends to cancer. "It's a hard disease."