Harlem residents come together each year in their fight against cancer through the annual Relay for Life for the American Cancer Society.
The city's 2008 relay raised $71,849, which equates to $10.45 per capita in the 30814 ZIP code, said Lisa Bryant, the city's Relay For Life partner in the cancer society's Augusta office.
In recognition of that accomplishment, Karen Lewis, Georgia's Northeast Area general manager, presented a plaque to Jean Dove, the city's 2008 event chairwoman, at the kickoff celebration Jan. 13 at Red Oak Manor.
"There's something very special about Harlem," Lewis said.
National relay fundraising awards are given on the amount raised per capita based on the county's population. But most relay volunteers and funds raised by Harlem's relay are from inside the city or the surrounding community.
"There is nowhere else, certainly not in the state of Georgia, that a community coming together is exemplified like it is in Harlem," Lewis said.
Relay organizers are already planning and fundraising for the 2009 relay, which is slated for May 8-9 at Harlem Middle School.
The 2009 relay theme is Esperanza: Hope for Tomorrow, Chairwoman Lee Ann Meyer said at the celebration. Goals for the relay are to include 15 teams and 60 survivors and to raise $50,000.
"I think they are all very attainable goals," Meyer said. "I think the challenge is to exceed the goals, not meet the goals."
Meyer said this year's relay will be held in honor of Dove's mother, Vasta Rousey, who died from cancer Nov. 16.
In addition to being involved in many civic groups and the Oliver Hardy Festival planning committee, Rousey cared for Dove during Dove's battle with cancer and organized the entertainment for Harlem's relay in 2006 and 2007.
"Because she was such a great person and did so much for this community and for this fight and fought the fight herself ... we want to honor her this year by doing this relay for her," Meyer said.
Carrie Kimel knows how hard the battle against cancer can be. Her 6-year-old son, Zackary, is being treated for a rare form of leukemia.
"It has been the hardest thing in my whole life to go through, watching what he has gone through," Kimel said.
Zackary led the Survivor's Lap at the 2007 relay.
"It is really hard on these children," Kimel told all those gathered at the kick-off.
"If we could find a cure, that would be amazing, because I would never want to see anybody else go through what we are going through, what Zackary is going through. It is heart-wrenching."
Anyone interested in forming a relay team can get information from Meyer by e-mailing leeannmeyer@ redoakmanor.org or by calling (706) 556-8222.
For information on Harlem's relay, visit www.relayforlife.org/harlemga.
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