Actual Factual Gwinnett: The biggest Relay for Life in the world?

This is "Actual Factual Gwinnett," a regular column in which I, Tyler Estep, answer reader questions about Gwinnett happenings and history. Read previous editions -- like this one examining what they're gonna do about all that traffic on Ga. 124 -- by clicking the hyperlinks at the bottom of this column, where you'll also find information for submitting your own questions. Enjoy!

Howdy folks. We're gonna try something different today -- Tyler answering Tyler's question, because Tyler thinks it's interesting. And he thinks you will too.

So here's the question: Is Gwinnett County's Relay for Life event still the biggest in the WORLD? And what, exactly, does that mean?

First, for the unfamiliar: Relay for Life is a big ol' fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. It started in the 1980s in Tacoma, Washington, where a local doctor spent 24 hours circling a track to draw attention to the cause. It's spread across the country since then, and while people still walk around tracks, that's kind of a side event in Gwinnett -- where it's evolved into more of an all-night carnival type of deal. It's held at the Gwinnett County Fairgounds and thousands attend.

This year's festivities start today at 6 p.m.

Now that that's out of the way: Yes. Gwinnett County's Relay for Life has been No. 1 in the world -- off and on, but mostly on -- for the last decade-plus. And it still is today.

So is that, like, No. 1 in terms of money raised, or people that go, or what? Both! Over the years, Gwinnett has battled -- if you can call it that -- the Relay event in Bakersfield, California, for the title. But most years, it's come out on top.

Last year, Gwinnett Relay had roughly 5,700 participants and raised precisely $1,762,499 for the American Cancer Society. ACS spokeswoman Evelyn Barella said the event remains the biggest in the world.

Wait...that's a whole lotta money. Right? Check out this handy dandy chart of all the money Gwinnett's Relay raised in the first 22 years of existence:

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Yes, you read that right -- nearly $36 million. And, as of lunchtime Friday, this year's Relay participants had already collected more than $1.1 million (the number typically swells during and after the actual event).

So where does all that money go? Cancer research, of course, but also many other things -- programs like Hope Lodge (which provides free accomodations to patients and caregivers), Road to Recovery (which provides patients with rides to treatment) and Look Good, Feel Better (which "teaches women battling cancer beauty techniques to help them improve their appearance and self-image during chemotherapy and radiation treatments").

Good causes, all.


I, Tyler Estep, am a staff writer with the AJC and a Gwinnett County native. To submit “Actual Factual Gwinnett” questions, contact me at, @ByTylerEstep on Twitter or via the form below.