There are rare moments when life comes full circle, completing a cycle and setting the stage for the future. That’s what happened to 35-year-old Holly Smith, who was this year’s Gwinnett Relay Event Lead.
The Johns Creek mother of three young boys was first introduced to Relay For Life as a junior at Norcross High School. Teacher and student council advisor Kirsten Baker extended an invitation to her students to participate in the American Cancer Society Relay For Life of Gwinnett County. As Holly says, “She gave me the gift of Relay. And once you go, you just can’t stop.”
Holly participated on the Norcross High Relay team and following graduation, she attended the University of Georgia where Relay was growing exponentially. Like many students who get involved in the event, cancer had touched Holly’s life.
“I’ve known my husband, Davis, since middle school,” Holly says. “His dad was diagnosed with melanoma that metastasized, and he passed away when we were in the eighth grade.”
Davis and Holly dated through college and married in 2008. Cancer struck again when Davis’ mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and the couple became her primary caretakers. “She got to see us married and met our first son,” Holly says. “She fought for three years, but lost her battle in 2011.”
Hired to teach social studies and US history at North Gwinnett High School, Holly again became involved with Relay, this time as a team captain. Ironically, she also was the school’s student council advisor. It was a full circle moment when Kirsten transferred back to North Gwinnett as assistant principal and the two were reunited.
“The most important type of leadership we can teach students is to serve others – their school, their peers, their community,” Holly says. “Relay For Life is one of those outlets. One that so many people can grab onto because so many have been affected by cancer. I cannot begin to tell you the joy I get in seeing all ages come together for such a great cause. Relay has been my way to deal with the loss of people I love from cancer – my way to give back.”
Growing Up Relay
Be the generation that will finish the fight against cancer!
When you participate in a Relay For Life event on your campus or in your community, you become a vital part of the American Cancer Society: a volunteer. You are now part of an organization of 3.5 million survivors, patients, advocates, volunteers, caregivers and researchers doing everything within our power to save lives.
How Relay For Life FUNdraising Impacts Your Community
The money raised through Relay For Life events helps realize the American Cancer Society’s mission to save lives, celebrate life, and lead the fight for a world without cancer. Donations are used to fund life-saving cancer research, patient support services, prevention and education information, and detection and treatment programs. Here’s how the money raised last year is helping make a difference.
$406 MILLION Funding potentially life-saving cancer research grants.
1.2+ MILLION Calls and chats from patients/caregivers seeking info and support.
456 THOUSAND Nights of free lodging provided to patients at Hope Lodge.
It’s not too late to donate to Relay For Life of Gwinnett. Visit RelayForLife.org/GwinnettGA.