Relay for Life to hand on passport to hope

Illawarra Relay for Life 2014 ambassadors Jennie and Leigh Colacino with Hayden Sleigh, 3, the grandson of last year's ambassador, Wendy Saville. Picture: GREG TOTMAN

Illawarra Relay for Life 2014 ambassadors Jennie and Leigh Colacino with Hayden Sleigh, 3, the grandson of last year's ambassador, Wendy Saville. Picture: GREG TOTMAN

When Jennie Colacino was diagnosed with cancer in 2004, she was given three weeks to live.

The Stanwell Park woman credits a "positive attitude, supportive husband and family, and brilliant surgeon" for helping her survive cancer in her colon, liver, peritoneum and lungs.

Along with her husband, Leigh, a Wollongong councillor, Mrs Colacino now helps other cancer patients and carers deal with the devastating diagnosis.

As the joint ambassadors for this year's Illawarra Relay for Life, they aim to spread their message of hope to more cancer sufferers, survivors and carers.

"When I was first diagnosed with cancer, it was scary and very daunting," Mrs Colacino said.

"But there was a light in the tunnel in the form of the Cancer Council, which provided me with information and support.

"They made the journey ahead feel more manageable and showed me that I was not alone, and now Leigh and I want to offer that hope to others."

The couple launched the NSW Cancer Council's 2014 Illawarra Relay for Life campaign at Beaton Park on Monday.

The theme of this year's event - which will be held at the Gwynneville leisure centre on September 20 and 21 - is Passport to Hope.

Illawarra Relay for Life committee chairperson Maree Kerr said the theme of countries and culture was relevant in a number of ways.

"We want to tap into the multicultural communities in the region and thought it would be great to have this theme that tapped into all the sporting events around the world this year, including the World Cup," she said.

"Plus we will be setting up tents at the event promoting healthy lifestyles and participants will get a stamp on their 'health passports' at each tent."

The Illawarra relay event has raised about $2.5 million since its inception in 2004. Organisers hope to attract 2200 participants and raise $350,000 this year.

"Some money will go towards supporting vital research although the majority of the money raised does stay local," Ms Kerr said. "It helps provide cancer patients and carers in the Illawarra with a range of services including telephone support, transport and home support."

The regional relay is gaining momentum with 90 teams and 389 people registered for the 24-hour event. Teams are encouraged to camp overnight and take turns to walk the track.

For more information, visit relayforlife.org.au.

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