Team Marie ready for Relay for Life

Maree Friend, Sharon McFarlane, Heather Friend, Danielle Attorre, John Friend (and mascot) and Angela Brakenridge get ready for the Illawarra Relay for Life, which this year celebrates major international sporting events such as the soccer World Cup. Picture: KIRK GILMOUR

Maree Friend, Sharon McFarlane, Heather Friend, Danielle Attorre, John Friend (and mascot) and Angela Brakenridge get ready for the Illawarra Relay for Life, which this year celebrates major international sporting events such as the soccer World Cup. Picture: KIRK GILMOUR

Since losing her childhood friend to cancer and watching both parents battle the illness, Corrimal's Maree Friend has made it her mission to fight back.

The single mother of two boys rallied her friends and family and for the past four years she has captained a team for the Illawarra Relay for Life - and raised more than $85,000 for cancer research and support in the process.

The team starts fund-raising way ahead of the event - which is on September 20 and 21 this year at Beaton Park - with cupcake drives, family bingo nights and shopping bus trips held throughout the year.

Ms Friend said the team of around 40 hoped to make the 2014 event their biggest yet, with a fund-raising target of $20,000.

"My childhood friend Kylie Frankowski died due to cancer in 2006 at the age of 36, and my mum and dad are cancer survivors, so I really wanted to do something to raise awareness and money for the cause," she said.

"Relay for Life was the perfect way to make a difference and while I'd been involved in the event previously, I knew if I captained a team I could do so much more.

"In 2010 the Corrimal Cougars was formed and we run functions throughout the year to raise funds before taking part in the actual event."

Ms Friend said the atmosphere of the event was amazing, with moving ceremonies for those who had lost their battle with cancer as well as uplifting celebrations for survivors.

The theme of this year's Illawarra relay is Passport for Hope, with organisers hoping to tap into the excitement of international sporting events being held this year including the soccer World Cup.

Cancer Council NSW community relations co-ordinator Danielle Attorre said the global theme was significant as cancer affected people in all countries, of all cultures.

"This year we are aiming to raise $350,000 to keep vital support services for cancer patients in the region operating, as well as funding vital cancer research," she said. "If we didn't have inspirational, hardworking and dedicated people like Maree we wouldn't be able to fund these programs and new research."

Ms Attorre said organisers hoped to get 2200 participants at this year's event, although they were only about a quarter of the way there.

Anyone wanting more information can visit the website relayforlife.org .au

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