THE reason why they walk is personal and varied, yet all participating in this year’s Bendigo Relay For Life are united in one cause: to celebrate, remember and fight back against cancer.
According to Cancer Council one in two Australians will be diagnosed with cancer before the age of 85.
All money raised through Relay For Life will fund critical research, prevention, education and support services.
That’s reason enough to encourage more than 1000 people of various ages to start walking and running around La Trobe University’s athletics complex in Flora Hill last night.
The event continues to 3pm today, with 73 teams having walked and run tens of thousands of kilometres in an effort to raise more than $150,000 for Cancer Council. Since 2000 the Bendigo community has raised $2.6 million through Relay For Life.
Maryborough’s community has also taken up the baton, with teams currently walking around Princes Park for their town’s annual Relay For Life event.
They walk for family, for friends, for work colleagues – some are still with them, some lost their battle with cancer.
Their teams are just as mixed. Some are from big business, some are work colleagues or students and others are smaller family teams, here are some inspiring stories from Bendigo residents taking part in Bendigo Relay For Life 2014.
The St Luke’s team has been involved in Bendigo Relay For Life for 14 years, having started with a small group of dedicated workers from some of Bendigo’s welfare agencies.
They walk with The Dots and Deep Heat from the Department of Human Services, said co-founding member of The Wellfairies, Brian Burns.
Sadly, one of the founding members lost his battle with cancer six years ago, just two weeks’ after being diagnosed. His death has inspired others to join the team each year and raise funds for a research award named in his honour, Mr Burns said.
“Richard Brett was a wonderful man and we all knew him and he made a difference to many people’s lives," he said.
"When we knew we could make a donation for a research award the team thought it would be a nice way to remember and honour Richard.
“Each year the three teams aim to raise $10,000 between us for the award. We hope to get there again this year.”
Mr Burns said St Luke’s staff and their families enjoy the relay with plenty of supporters cheering them from the sidelines, and co-worker Cheryl Lawry organising the team and its fund-raising activities in the past two years.
Paying homage to Victorian agriculture, team members will walk with a toy cow as their baton as they relay for life.
Having relayed for the past six years, Rural Finance has raised more than $20,000 for cancer research and are on target to raise at least another $2000 this year, said team captain and Bendigo Relay For Life 2014 committee member Alana O’Shea.
“About 30 staff, family and friends will participate in the two days. We believe it is a great event to support and raise awareness for all the different cancers and raise funds for research,” Ms O’Shea said.
“Just about everyone of us has been touched by cancer – some staff, family and friends have needed assistance from the Cancer Council Victoria. Rural Finance believes it is important to be involved in the community.”
The financial institution encourages staff to get involved by offering them Community Service Leave to help make the bright purple show bags given to teams, and gifts for carers and survivors.
“We are sitting in a sea of purple, with a group of us making bags with lollies, gifts and information from sponsors and the Cancer Council. It’s another way we can help out.”
And as for the cow: “While it’s quirky, it acknowledges we work with Victorian agriculture and, besides, it’s light and easy to carry,” she said.
Girton Grammar Junior School
Taking part in the relay has been a staple for many students in the past eight years, as they join school staff and parents to fundraise today.
While some will walk and run others in the team of more than 40 will do ‘little activities’ on the day, such as nail and face painting, to encourage donations from the public, said team captain Linda Gibson.
The students range from prep to year seven, with some senior school students helping out with games in the middle of the oval today.
“Our school is very community minded. We want to do our little bit to help raise awareness and funding," she said.
"The students take it seriously. Some walk, some run and we have maths competitions to work out how many kilometres they will have walked. Last year we walked 415km, so we hope to better that.
“The day has a nice feel and it’s important for students, parents and staff to be a part of it.”
The team of 35 walkers plus support crew is on track to raise more than $7000 this year, said captain Julie Stratford.
The team has relayed since 2007 and this year will debut a bright red baton, so the team "won’t be missed”, Mrs Stratford said.
She said the team had the support of management, which in turn gets a well-bonded workplace through the different business units’ fundraising activities, such as bowling and movie nights, chocolate and cake drives.
“The team helps bond the workplace and lifts morale and we get to mix with other business units within the firm,” Mrs Stratford said.
“Strategem is very supportive of our community. We are very passionate about helping people remember the ones they have lost and remembering family.
"Everyone in this team has been touched by cancer. I lost my Dad to cancer the first year the event came to Bendigo. I am very passionate about remembering and honouring him.”
For Ms Stratford, last night’s candlelight ceremony was an emotional and rewarding experience.
“It’s a favourite part of the whole event for me. It’s very touching and a rewarding experience for those who have been and I encourage others to go. I will light a candle and say a poem for Dad.”
Bendigo Day & Night Pharmacy
It will be their first relay but already the team of 15 workmates and their families is jumping at the chance to raise funds for cancer research.
“We registered late, just a couple of weeks ago but already we have had customers donate over $1000 and we will achieve more,” team captain Tegan Ward said.
“We knew we had to take part when we heard that one of our colleague’s mum had been diagnosed, so it has really hit home for us.”
Ms Ward said while the team’s approach to the relay was ‘slow and steady’, she set her own personal goal to walk 100 laps.
“That’s because some people are sponsoring me per lap, so I want to do a minimum 100 laps.”
Hasty For A Cure
With three family members lost to cancer, Andrea Campbell says the relay “is an emotional time but a happy time”.
“We will walk for a number of people, including my husband Steve’s parents who passed away 10 years ago and my Dad who passed in 2009,” Mrs Campbell said.
“The relays are really wonderful. While we cry, we still have hope and have a lot of fun and lots of friendships are made.”
The team of about 25 has participated in Bendigo’s relays for the past six years. They enjoy the community atmosphere that the campsites and tents provide.
Even with her mum quite ill following a stroke and arthritis problems the family is as keen as ever to relay for life.
“Mum has been sick this year, thankfully it’s not cancer," Mrs Campbell said.
She usually helps and drives the fundraising so we haven’t had a chance to do as much this year, but we want to remember loved ones and raise awareness. Too many people suffer because of cancer.”
The Village People
Amid a sea of colour, laughter and the odd walking frame, Bendigo Retirement Village’s team The Village People walked for those who could not
Their support network included residents of the village, some who walked a slow lap while the team members rested.
“They are our biggest support,” team member Louise Johnston said.
“They look forward to this every year. While they cannot walk it they get behind fund raising and gee-ing us up to walk. Many of our residents have lost family members to cancer, so it’s dear to them.”
Mrs Johnston said the core team of 20 comprised work colleagues, friends and family members.
The team started walking five years ago after Mrs Johnston’s daughter Jess suggested it.
“The kids get involved, they walk and they make wrist bands to sell at school and on the day. We did quite well in the fund raising we bake and cook and had lots of food to sell overnight.
“We really enjoy it as we get to walk for the people at the village who cannot walk.”