Relays for Newton, Rockdale set for this weekend

COVINGTON -- Newton and Rockdale residents will be out in force to battle cancer this weekend, as both counties host their respective Relays for Life.

The 25th Annual Newton County Relay for Life will take place at 7 p.m., Friday at The Church at Covington, located at 11975 Ga. Highway 142, Oxford.

More than 1,000 participants and 62 teams will participate in this year's event. The fundraising goal is $244,000, according to Chris Jones, community manager for Newton County Relay. The opening ceremony begins at 7 p.m., and will be a high-energy celebration of the lives of those who have battled cancer. About 300 survivors will take the first lap around the track to kick off the all-night relay.

"It will be amazing to see that many survivors. It's very touching, because what we are raising funds for is to save those lives," Jones said.

At 9:30 p.m., a luminaria ceremony will honor and memorialize those who are still battling or have lost their lives to cancer.

There will be games and contests all night long, including a pancake eating contest at 4 a.m. and a rooster crow contest.

Even those who aren't participating in the relay cam come out to enjoy the food, entertainment and games, Jones said.

"It gives people a chance to see everybody and hang out and have a good time while fighting back against cancer," he said. "All proceeds the night of directly go to the American Cancer Society, so no matter what you do, you're helping out."

According to the most recent update on the Newton Relay website, teams have raised nearly $153,000. Lendmark Financial is currently the top fundraising team, having raised $19,821. They are followed by Bard Medical, which has raised $11,192.55 and Caldwell and Cowan Funeral Home, which has raised $10,454.

The closing ceremony takes place at 7 a.m. Saturday.

Relay participants are reminded to turn in their final collections from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at Newton Federal Bank and pick up team T-shirts.

The Rockdale County Relay for Life, in its 20th year, is undergoing some major changes. Instead of an all-night event, this year's relay will take place from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday. In addition it will be held at a new location, moving from Georgia International Horse Park to the government annex building at 1400 Parker Road.

"This year is a whole new ballgame," said Relay Chair Julie Singleton.

Singleton said she hopes changing the time will encourage more people to stay longer and result in more money being raised.

According to Singleton, 39 teams and more than 500 people will participate. The fundraising goal is $110,000. According to the Rockdale Relay website, more than $464,000 has been raised thus far. The top teams are Acuity Brands, which has raised more than $8,000, followed by Pleasant Hill Baptist Church at more than $7,000; and Lorraine Elementary at more than $6,000.

The theme is "Party With a Purpose," focusing on the birthdays of cancer survivors.

"It's more like a festival, carnival-type feel this year," Singleton said, adding there will be food, games, a dunking booth and entertainment all day.

The opening ceremony takes place at 10 a.m., followed by the survivor's lap at 10:15 a.m. The luminaria ceremony takes place at 8:30 p.m. and the closing ceremony will begin at 9:15 p.m.

The general public is encouraged to come out and participate in the various activities and donate if possible. Singleton said you don't have to be part of a team to walk; just come and register the day of the event.

Relay for Life is the largest fundraiser of the American Cancer Society, which this year is celebrating its 100th anniversary.

For more information, visit www.relayforlife.org.