AIKEN - On the infield of the track at South Aiken High School on Friday night stood Camp Zero America, a red-white-and-blue tent filled with followers of Aunt Marty.
Marty Grande's poster was taped to a tent pole, her story cemented in the hearts of the 16 people who were walking in her honor during the American Cancer Society Relay for Life.
Mrs. Grande beat cancer more than three years ago, and she said being an inspiration for others was humbling.
"I feel very special and very blessed," she said.
Camp Zero America was named to honor ground zero, the site of the Sept. 11 attacks in New York, and because "we have zero tolerance for cancer," team captain Renee Pattillo said.
Team members wore patriotic vests as they walked around the track, which was lined with more than 2,400 bags filled with candles. The team raised about $6,000 - double what it raised last year.
The Rag Farm Line Dancers from Aiken passed a black-and-white baton with a lighthouse on the tip to one another when they finished their laps. They also created a 10-foot lighthouse with a working blue light at the top, symbolizing a ray of hope against cancer.
Other groups had appropriate slogans, such as Wackenhut's "Guarding Against Cancer."
During the 24-hour walking marathon, more than 1,800 walkers will make the circle in memory of those who lost their battle with cancer and in honor of those who survived.
The relay is the American Cancer Society's largest annual fund-raiser. It began in 1985 in Washington state when Dr. Gordon Klatt raised $27,000.
The relay is now conducted in more than 3,100 communities nationwide.
Reach Matthew Boedy at (803) 648-1395 or firstname.lastname@example.org.