GGC Grizzlies Revved Up To Swipe Out Cancer

“Even before our first student organization was formed on campus, our students were asking how they could get involved in the community,” says Jim Fatzinger, associate vice president for student affairs at Georgia Gwinnett College. “Our students play an active role in Gwinnett County and their participation in this year’s Relay for Life is evidence of that.”

“Even before our first student organization was formed on campus, our students were asking how they could get involved in the community,” says Jim Fatzinger, associate vice president for student affairs at Georgia Gwinnett College. “Our students play an active role in Gwinnett County and their participation in this year’s Relay for Life is evidence of that.”

Faculty, students, and staff from GGC have already surpassed their goal to raise $5,000 to “Swipe Out Cancer,” a theme the college adopted to align with its newly named mascot, the “Grizzlies.”

The American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life culminates this weekend, May 9-10, when scores of local organizations—and some 12,000-15,000 supporters—gather at the Gwinnett County Fairgrounds for an around-the-clock fundraiser celebration to remind the community that cancer never sleeps and a cure is needed.

Open to the public, the event will feature games, food, prizes, entertainment, a Survivor Walk, a Kids’ Walk, and a moving Celebration of Hope, when thousands of candles are lit to celebrate those who have survived cancer, and commemorate those who have died from the disease. Gwinnett County’s Relay for Life effort is the largest in the country, having raised $2.5 million last year.

A number of the GGC students, faculty, and staff participating in Relay for Life have either had cancer or lost someone as a result of the disease. “My mother died of breast cancer two months prior to my fifth birthday and it’s had a profound impact on me,” says GGC Associate Professor of Management C. Douglas Johnson. “My older brother died of lung and throat cancer and my sister is a 13-year survivor of breast cancer. The reason I Relay and encourage my students to Relay is personal. I would not be the person I am today if it were not for this dreaded disease.”

Johnson recently oversaw an organizational behavior course that involved eight teams of GGC students with service learning projects to benefit Relay for Life. Students sold purple ribbons to faculty, staff, and students for display on their backpacks, cars, and office doors, in addition to selling Chick-fil-A biscuits, and pizzas supplied by Pizza Hut in Dacula, and Buck’s and Stevi B’s in Snellville. To date, GGC teams have raised close to $6,500 for the American Cancer Society to support research and heighten awareness in its fight against cancer.

“Community service is one of the cornerstones at GGC,” says Johnson. “Our effort to raise funds and awareness for cancer research achieves specific course objectives and engages our students in the learning process. It’s taught them the importance of civic engagement, group dynamics, goal setting, and project management.”

For many at GGC, participation in Relay for Life is personal, emotional, and all too close to home. Diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago, GGC Associate Professor of History Linda Lane went through surgery, months of chemotherapy, and extensive radiation treatments. Although she went into remission for a time, doctors recently found a recurrence of the horrific disease.

“I’m involved in Relay for Life to give courage and hope to those of us still in the midst of the greatest struggle of our lives,” says Lane. “I’m speaking out because I need help. If people don’t know about cancer, they can’t help. There is no battle like this, especially when you get the news it has returned. It means so much to have family, friends, and colleagues behind us, to wrap us up with their support and love. Events like Relay give us the much needed strength we need to go on.”

Judy Edens, administrative assistant in GGC’s School of Business, had been involved with Relay for Life for years because of her many friends who have become cancer victims. Little did she know the disease would strike so close to home. Her husband, Larry, a mail clerk at GGC, was diagnosed with breast cancer one year ago. One out of every 100 individuals diagnosed with breast cancer are men.

“He found the lump himself,” says Edens. “He had a radical mastectomy, then chemo and radiation. He’s taking medication now. Nobody has said he is cancer free, but we do call him a survivor. His doctor says if nothing has changed and there are no new symptoms, we’re going to wait and not test. If new symptoms come up, we’ll handle it then.” Edens says cancer has become a much more personal battle now. “By the time Larry found the lump, doctors say he’d had it five to eight years—until it became painful, that’s when he found it. We need to find a cure. I just want to be a helper along the way.”

As part of Gwinnett County’s 15th Relay for Life this weekend, local schools, physicians, hotels, utility companies, ladies clubs, churches, Greek organizations, scouts, daycare centers, musicians, libraries, police and fire units, and restaurants will have booths set up at the Fairgrounds to raise funds for The American Cancer Society.

“The idea for the Relay for Life walk is to have someone walking continuously in honor of the ongoing battle that we must endure as it relates to cancer,” says Johnson. “Members of the GGC team will be staying all night, selling water, and contributing in any way we can to ‘swipe out cancer.’”

RELAY FOR LIFE • MAY 9 & 10
GWINNETT COUNTY FAIRGROUNDS

May 9
3 p.m., Survivor Check-in/Registration
4:30 p.m., Survivor Dinner/Reception
7 p.m., Survivor Lap
8:30 p.m., Kids’ Walk
10 p.m., Luminary Ceremony

May 10
Overnight, Campsite Decorating Contest
9:30 a.m., Closing Ceremony

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