5 October 2022

**Update - Wagga's Relay for Life to continue the fight against cancer indoors

| Chris Roe
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Woman in wheelchair

Grace Flanagan has an extensive collection of Relay For Life shirts dating back to the first event in 2002. Photo: Chris Roe.

**With rain predicted for Friday, the Wagga Wagga Relay for Life committee has decided to push on with an indoor event at Wagga’s Equex Centre on Saturday.

Grace Flanagan is at the Wagga RSL in her wheelchair, rugged up against the cold and keen to celebrate the return of Wagga’s Relay For Life on Friday, 7 October.

The 84-year-old has participated in every one of Wagga’s Relay For Life Cancer Council fundraisers since 2002.

“My husband died of cancer,” she says.

“And in those days there really wasn’t anything much that you could do to raise money as a group.”

Over the years, Grace and her teammates have raised more than $65,000 for the Cancer Council and she proudly displays the collection of shirts that she has worn during that time.

Each year she would deliver dozens of handwritten letters to local businesses and supporters calling for them to get behind the fundraiser once again.

“I felt good because the people would recognise me – I usually wore one of the shirts,” Grace says with a smile.

“I’d go out and hand letters to everybody and made it as personal as I could and not just ‘give me your money’.”

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The event brings communities together in a practical way to remember those lost to cancer and to celebrate survivors, their carers and families.

Wagga’s Relay For Life chair Alan Pottie is excited to see the event returning to Conolly Rugby Park after two years of virtual relays.

This year’s event will kick off on a Friday evening and continue through Saturday rather than taking over the whole weekend.

“We feel that will give people more opportunity to have their weekends back and to have a carnival atmosphere on Friday night,” Alan explains.

“There’s a pile of activities happening for young kids and all sorts of people that would like to take advantage of coming out and have a great day to celebrate, remember and fight back – which is what the relay message is.”

As well as running family picnic classics such as egg-and-spoon and three-legged races, organisers are reigniting a Wagga tradition with a fleet of refurbished ”chariots”.

“The South Wagga Lions, who are coming back to help us run the event, made those chariots available and we’ve had them refurbished by the Junee Correctional Centre,” Alan explains.

“It works by having a person standing in the back of the chariot and two people pulling it … it’ll be about a 100-metre sprint probably.”


Wagga RSL’s Jo Thomas takes the reins as the Cancer Council’s Michael Gordon and Relay For Life chair Alan Pottie prepare to pull the chariot. Photo: Chris Roe.

But as well as the celebration, Alan says there will be an important time of reflection with the emotional Hope Candlelight Ceremony on Friday evening.

“We have a guest speaker who typically might share their journey,” he says.

“They could be a survivor or a carer and they will share some of their particular backgrounds and allow people to reflect on what their journey is.

“It helps them just sit back and think where they’re at, because cancer does make you reassess your life in a lot of ways.”

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After missing the last relay event due to poor health, Grace Flanagan is hoping to make the 2022 return and is even open to trading her wheelchair for a chariot if it helps.

“I’ll do anything!” she says with a chuckle.

“It’s all for a good cause.”

The money raised helps fund the Cancer Council’s research, prevention programs and support services for people affected by cancer.

And while the fundraising is important, Grace says the community she has found through the events has been a big part of her life.

“The main thing was friendship,” she says.

“We’ve all been touched by cancer one way or another and it’s uplifting to us in the fact that it brings home to you that you’re not the only one going through this.”

Registrations are now open for the 2022 Relay For Life and you can sign up here.

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