<b> LIBERTY COUNTY, Ga. </b> Aca,!" Joan Fredrickson is not a Soldier in the traditional sense, but she knows a lot of struggle.

Joan is a two-time cancer survivor, and a member of the Battle Fighters, a group of friends that has participated in Relay for Life for the past 12 years raising approximately $40,000 for cancer research. She walks in the relay every year because it is something that she believes in, she said. Cancer has affected her and her Family.

"I have had five brothers, all who have had cancer," said Fredrickson. "My mother had breast cancer."

Joan said she will walk in the relays every year she is physically capable of doing so.

"I think it brings a lot of recognition to a disease that really affects everybody in one way or another," she said.

Relay for Life is a life-changing event that brings together more than 3.5 million people. In Liberty County more than 600 people participated in the relay and, as of May 8, have raised $145,000.

"This is what makes our community so powerful," said Col. Todd Buchs, Fort Stewart/Hunter Army Airfield garrison commander. "That we could all come together as one and be together for a focused reason. And that reason is to fight cancer. I'm so proud of everyone out here tonight."

Colonel Buchs's daughter, Alexie, 8, contributed her own way to helping victims of cancer. She donated approximately 13 inches from her hair to Locks for Love, a nonprofit organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children in the United States and Canada suffering from long-term medical hair loss.

"I think this was a really great cause to donate my hair to," said Alexie. "I feel great. I feel relieved. I feel like I made a difference."

According to the American Cancer Society, this year alone, approximately 562,340 Americans are expected to die of cancer, more than 1,500 people a day. It is the second most common cause of death in the U.S., exceeded only by heart disease, and accounts for nearly one of every four deaths in the U.S.

The National Institutes of Health estimates overall costs of cancer in 2008 at $228.1 billion. Lack of health insurance and other barriers prevent many Americans from receiving optimal health care. This is where the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life steps in to help.

Relay for Life is the American Cancer Society's signature activity. It offers everyone in a community an opportunity to participate in the fight against cancer.

Relay for Life began in Tacoma, Wash., in the mid-1980s with Dr. Gordy Klatt, a Tacoma colorectal surgeon. Klatt wanted to enhance the income of his local American Cancer Society office and to show support for all of his patients who had battled cancer.

In May 1985, Dr. Klatt spent a grueling 24 hours circling the track at Baker Stadium at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma. He ran for more than 83 miles. That first year, nearly 300 of Klatt's friends, Family, and patients watched as he ran and walked the course. Throughout the night, friends donated $25 to run or walk with Klatt for 30 minutes. His efforts raised $27,000 to fight cancer.

Hinesville mayor Jim Thomas reminded the participants of the relay exactly what everyone was walking for.

"All of you are here for a very good reason," said Thomas. "This relay is about survival, survival for those that are here and survival for those in the future. As you walk this evening, rest assured that the steps you take goes toward helping someone that has gone through or is going through some very difficult times in their life."

For more information about the American Cancer Society and the Relay for Life, visit them on the Web at www.cancer.org.

Page last updated Thu May 14th, 2009 at 15:09