Saturday, 6 July 2013 00:00
An event which created a lot of excitement while in Sydney was the Relay For Life where teams of 10-15 in each participate in a 24-hour relay-style walk or run to raise funds for the Cancer Council, a non-governmental organisation in Australia. There was so much enthusiasm among the young and old alike to be partners in the fight against cancer.
The relay was held over a weekend when teams camped out in a community park .Being autumn, the cold weather had set in and there were intermittent show as well. They all braved the weather and the cold to make the annual fund raising project a success. Their aim was to do one better than last year by way of collections and they did.
The Hills Relay – as they called the Pennant Hills project – had a record collection of 336,000 Australian dollars. A school team formed by a group of friends had a target of collecting A$ 350 and ended up with A$1300! It just shows how much people are willing to contribute towards a good cause.
‘Celebrate, Remember, Fight back’ is the theme of the Relay.
Cancer survivors and relatives of those who lost their battle against cancer play a very active role in the Relay For Life. It’s a celebration when the local survivors and carers proudly wearing sashes are invited to walk the first lap of the track while the rest cheer them on.
Survivors are those who are now cancer-free or those who are currently undergoing treatment. Carers include those walking with the person they cared for and those walking in honour of a loved one lost. At the completion of the first lap, all participants join the second lap.
The Candlelight Ceremony of Hope is held at dusk to remember those lost to cancer. Candles are placed in paper bags lovingly inscribed with messages from family and friends. These candles are placed around the track to encourage all to remember those who lost the fight and be inspired to keep going. It was a very moving scene when the relatives lit candles in the memory of their kith and kin while the others watched silently.
An equally touching scene was when 77 participants shaved their heads symbolic of cancer patients losing their hair. In fact, it was a world record when for the most number of heads shaved at the same time.
A special Fight Back Ceremony is held at the end of the Relay where participants are invited to make a personal pledge on how they will make a change to fight cancer. It can be as simple as getting a mammogram, recommending one’s neighbour or father get a health check, committing to losing weight, or telling the neighbour to call Cancer Council Helpline to get more information on their cancer diagnosis. Such simple steps can and do save lives.
The overnight, community event brings the whole community in a particular area together for a night of fun, entertainment, celebration and remembrance. At the Pennant Hills event there were magic shows, sports activities, musical shows and movies. While these went on, there were always some groups walking.
In the state of New South Wales around 40,000 people each year take part in Relay For Life. The vent is organised by a team of volunteers in the area.
There is no age limit to participate in the Relay. Anyone can take part. A participating fee of A$ 20 is charged from each participant. The fee includes participation in the Relay, an official Relay For Life polo shirt, breakfast and covers the cost of entertainment and event staging. It also covers essential safety and security at the event, like the presence of St John Ambulance.
All money raised through Relay For Life is used for the Cancer Council’s critical research, prevention, education and support services.
Relay For Life’s journey began in May 1985 when a US colorectal surgeon, Dr. Gordy Klatt, wanted to boost the income of his local American Cancer Society office to support all of his cancer patients. He spent a gruelling 24 hours circling a track in Tacoma, Washington and raised over $27,000 to fight cancer. Since then, the event has spread across the USA and then across the globe.
Relay For Life events are now held in more than 600 communities spanning 20 countries.