The Heroes Project: Lighting a candle of hope in 2010

Gwinnett organizations form teams and step up for Relay For Life

Perhaps one of the best displays of community can be seen each year at the Gwinnett Relay For Life event. This years event will be held on May 7 at the Gwinnett County Fairgrounds, and it's shaping up to be an amazing spectacle.

One of the most moving parts of the event is the Luminaria Ceremony. As the sun sets over campsites and darkness falls, the night is brightened by the glow of illuminated bags called luminaria, each bearing the name of someone who has battled cancer. Some celebrate cancer survivors, while others help us honor and remember those gone too soon. All represent someone special who has been profoundly affected by cancer and the family and friends who continue to fight back in their honor.

Vigils like these occur every year as part of Relay For Life events around the world. This year, The Heroes Project, a Gwinnett-based effort to raise global cancer awareness, is working to create the most memorable luminary vigil the Gwinnett Relay For Life has ever seen with the unveiling of its new song, We Light a Candle.

This song, the proceeds of which will benefit The Heroes Project, was written to capture the emotion felt by cancer patients and their loved ones and to help sustain cancer awareness. We Light a Candle is the second song produced by The Heroes Project, and one of many tools developed by the project team to further the cause.

Founded in 2009, The Heroes Project began as the dream of Gwinnett-based entrepreneur David Greer. Greer, founder of Tillman Allen Greer, a marketing strategy and creative services firm, and his wife Kelly have long been supporters of the fight against cancer. After years of donating and volunteering, they decided that they wanted to do more and began looking for ways to use their gifts and resources to make an even larger impact.

"This has always been something of great importance to me," Greer says. "So many people in my life, including members of my own family, have been affected by cancer, and we wanted to do more to support them in their fight. I began looking for ways to use the talents God has given us to make a difference in the lives of the survivors and the families struggling with this horrible disease."

Greer began his quest by penning lyrics and then set out to produce his first song for the project – All Are Our Heroes – the proceeds of which raised thousands of dollars in donations for Relay For Life and cancer research.

With the help of local artists and musicians, including rising country star Rachel Farley, who co-wrote the song, and Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Shawn Mullins, the song was produced prior to last year's Relay, and CDs and downloads were distributed as fundraising tools for area volunteer teams.

Little did Greer know at the time how his dream and his song would impact the Relay community nationwide. "Last year, we produced and distributed more than 25,000 All Are Our Heroes CDs," Greer remembers. "Rachel Farley came out to the Relay to give a live performance of the song with several cancer survivors singing backup. It was one of the most moving and humbling experiences of my life."

"The Heroes Project helps energize our volunteers and raise awareness and participation at our Relay For Life events," says Randy Redner of the American Cancer Society. "Their songs inspire hope and act as catalyst to attract more volunteers and supporters worldwide. Their support sets an amazing example of how everyone can contribute and make a difference with the gifts and passions that they have."

All Are Our Heroes was only the beginning for Greer and The Heroes Project. The song project is quickly becoming an inspirational platform for all involved, rallying a worldwide following of thousands committed to fight the disease and find a cure. The All Are Our Heroes Facebook and social media groups, launched in 2009, now have over 10,000 members from virtually every state in the U.S. and more than 20 countries worldwide. In just one year, the project has grown from an idea and a dream into an influential voice in the fight against cancer.

The project has also gained the attention of the national media, resulting in the screening of a documentary short film on the All Are Our Heroes project at the 2010 International Family Film Festival in Hollywood in March, a festival launched to educate, cultivate and elevate the family film genre. The film has also made it into the finals of the Newport Beach Film Festival.

Greer and the team have just completed 2010 production on We Light a Candle, the celebration anthem to honor survivors, and will soon be distributing CDs and downloadable versions for this year's fundraising efforts online at The project's website also features video updates from the team, a sneak preview of the new song, and stories from real survivors touched by the campaign and the efforts of nonprofit organizations like Relay For Life.

"Each year at the Relay, we listen to the bagpipes playing Amazing Grace, meet back at the stage, and light a candle in honor of those who are gone, those who are fighting and those who have survived," Greer explains. "It is the most beautiful sight you can ever behold. We wanted to write a song this year that would capture that emotion and share it with others, so that they too would want to become involved with this important fight."

We Light a Candle, co-written by Greer and Lee Davis, will be sung by Peggie Hoskins and performed live at the 2010 Gwinnett Relay. Local favorite Rachel Farley is also returning to perform All Are Our Heroes. That night is truly shaping up to be one of the most memorable events ever.

"I'm excited to be working with another group of talented musicians," Greer says. "Everybody who contributes their talent just takes the project to all new levels. It's amazing to see."

"At the luminaria ceremony, we want everyone to light a candle and sing this song together," Greer says, "sending a powerful message to everyone affected by cancer that ‘we hear you, we love you and we are fighting with you.' There is no better way to honor the fighters and the survivors than by making this year's Luminaria Ceremony the most amazing one yet. We are asking for everyone in the area to get involved, join the dreamers and come raise their voices with us."