31 October 2023

Relay for Life gears up for its first Friday start

| Chris Roe
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people running

The chariots are back for the 2023 Wagga Wagga Relay for Life Cancer Council fundraiser. Photo: Supplied.

The countdown is on for Wagga’s annual Relay for Life, which kicks off on Friday afternoon at Conolly Park.

Each year, dozens of locals who have been touched by cancer get together in teams and walk laps for 24 hours to raise money for the Cancer Council.

“We’re looking forward to some good weather this weekend for our first Friday night start,” said committee chair Alan Pottie, explaining that the event has moved from the traditional Saturday kick-off.

“We like that the Friday format retains the 24-hour concept, which is where the relay came from, but we’re condensing the event from a bump-in at 4 pm Friday to a bump-out by 4 pm Saturday.

“We’re conscious of people’s busy lifestyles and it gives people back their Saturday evenings plus Sunday.”

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The event is a mix of sombre reflection and celebration of survival that is summed up in the ”three pillars”: celebrate, fight back and remember.

The Candlelight HOPE ceremony will be held after sundown on the Friday and gives families and survivors a chance to share their stories and celebrate the lives of loved ones touched by cancer.

people preparing food at a barbecue stall

Volunteers have been busy raising funds in the lead-up to the event. Photo: Supplied.

Wagga Mayor Dallas Tout is a longtime supporter and said the event brought the community together.

“Someone’s always got a family member impacted by it [cancer], but even if they haven’t, they’re coming together as a group of people with a common purpose, which is to share stories and lean on each other if they need to,” Cr Tout said.

“But also on top of that, we get to fundraise to contribute to solutions and cures for cancer. So it’s this win, win, win, win!”

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Leone McCallum agreed that there was something special about Relay for Life.

“What I love about relay is the community that it brings together,” she said.

“When you see everybody walking around the track and they’re all talking to each other and just the whole community coming together and just having fun.”

Alan explained that there are many ways to join in an event and support the cause.

“We’re really keen to have the message that it’s a 24-hour event, but you don’t necessarily need to be there for 24 hours,” he said.

“A lot of people do love to camp overnight, but you don’t have to do that, you can just come up on Friday night after work and participate in the HOPE ceremony, for example.

“We’ve also got the opening laps and the Kapooka Band will play live, and there’s entertainment and food vendors.”

people with a fundraising racing ''chariot''

Relay for Life Committee members Greg Johnson and Michael Gordon check out the chariot with the Cancer Council’s Kate Kiernan. Photo: Chris Roe.

There’s a busy schedule planned for the Saturday, too, with a traditional family fun day vibe.

“We’ve got some local dance groups performing, more live music and the chariot races, which were really popular a couple of years ago,” Alan said.

“There’s also the survivors’ tent, and Amie St Clair [Melanoma Trust] will have a booth where they’ll be doing free skin checks for people and we’ll be really pushing that message that early diagnosis is the key.

“The Cancer Council is a great one-stop-shop and that number 13 11 20 is where you go if you have to face ‘the beast’.

“Mentally, it’s a tough gig and that resource, 13 11 20, is just a touch point for a range of either financial or emotional support or even resources to learn more on your particular cancer. It’s a tremendous thing.”

Wagga’s Relay for Life kicks off on Friday, 3 November, at Conolly Park and you can learn more or register a team here.

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