Motorcycle ride set to benefit cancer research

CONYERS -- For most motorcyclists, Saturday's ride from Prospect United Methodist Church will be an enjoyable ride through the countryside. But for Nicole Gilliland and her family, it means much more.

Gilliland's Relay for Life team is hosting the motorcycle ride to raise money for this year's Relay for Life drive. She said the team consists of just her and her mother, and they raise money for cancer research each year through Relay for Life in honor of her grandmother, who passed away from cancer in 2001.

"We thought of this as our way to give back because my grandmother died so quickly we never really had the chance to help her out," said Gilliland, a co-chairwoman of the 2010 Rockdale County Relay for Life. "I see it as every dollar raised can help someone else's grandmother."

The motorcycle ride will begin and end at Prospect United Methodist Church, on the corner of Ga. Highway 212 and Oak Hill Road in south Newton County. Registration is at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, and the ride begins with a law enforcement escort at 10:30 a.m. The riders will return to the church for lunch.

Donations are $20 per motorcycle and rider and $5 for an additional rider. Last year, the event attracted 30 bikes and raised about $1,000. Gilliland said she hopes to top that, especially if the weather is good.

Gilliland's event, like many others held by teams across Rockdale County, leads up to the annual Relay for Life on April 23-24.

The relay will be held at the Georgia International Horse Park beginning at 6 p.m. April 23 and continuing through the night to 7 a.m. the following Saturday.

Entertainment starts at 6 p.m. and is followed by the Opening Ceremony and the Survivor Lap at 7 p.m. A Survivor Reception will also be held at 6 p.m. A Luminary ceremony to remember those lost to cancer will be held at 9 p.m.

The Relay has grown each year in participation and money raised, according to Joni Howard, the 2010 Rockdale Relay for Life co-chairwoman, along with Gilliland.

Last year's event was rained out, but the local Relay for Life has exceeded their fundraising goals each year and has raised $300,000 over the past two years for cancer research.

"That's really, really good considering the size of Rockdale County," Howard said.

The event is open to everyone, and you do not have to be a member of a team. "You don't have to be a good runner or even a good walker," Howard said. "The event will have a carnival-esque feel to it with bands, cloggers and choruses performing to keep people motivated all night long."

For more information, go to www.relayforlife.org/rockdale or call Howard at 770-616-2825.