Relay for Life begins in perfect sunshine

The 16th annual Wollongong Relay for Life started in perfect sunshine on Saturday morning when hundreds gathered just after 9.30 at Beaton Park for the opening ceremony.

That was followed by the commencement of the 24 hour relay at 10am for members of the community to raise funds for research and services, celebrate survival and success, remember loved ones lost and fight back against cancer.

Master of ceremonies for the The Jungle-Don’t Monkey Around With Cancer themed relay was former WIN Entertainment Centre general manager Stuart Barnes who was still out there working for the Wollongong community during his first day of retirement.

The message for the 2016 event was to not be complacent when it comes to defeating cancer.

The annual 24 hour walks not only raises funds but reminds us all of the need to fightback against cancer by being sunsmart, eating well, exercising and having regular health checks.

During the opening ceremony ambassador Aron Downie shared his story of survival from the stage.

Fellow ambassador Natalie Wall said it was an opportunity for her to raise awareness about thyroid cancer and the need to regularly check for lumps around the neck.

Mrs Wall would like to one day see a thyroid day held nationally to help spread more information by what is often a lesser known cancer.

But on Saturday and Sunday the fight against all cancers continued with teams participating in a relay-style walk coordinated by the Cancer Council NSW with the help of an active committee involving many members of the community and representatives from Wollongong City Council.

It was a chance for the Wollongong to recognise and celebrate those who have overcome cancer or are undergoing treatment, as well as the people who care for them.

But the memories of those lost to cancer were always close. 

On Saturday night there is a candlelight ceremony of hope at 7pm including a minute of silence, remembrance slideshow, Peter Newell paying tribute to the late Rikki Organ, a perfomance by Mackenzie Garcia and that is being followed by a Happy Lap of Hope.

Every year thousands of people participate in the Wollongong Relay for Life.

During the last 15 years it has raised over $2.6 million for local cancer support services such as in-home help and transport to cancer treatment, as well as skin prevention and nutrition workshops in local schools and communities, along with information and access to free financial, legal and emotional support.

The success of the annual event has also enabled the Cancer Council to establish a Cancer Information Centre in Wollongong Hospital and helped to achieve advocacy wins such as the abolishment of chemotherapy co-payments.

The most recent success has been the smoke free outdoor dining campaign which came into action on July 6.

Relay also helps contribute to world class research into all cancers.

The opening ceremony included a flag raising by Bravo Company 4/3 Royal NSW Regiment and the National Anthem being performed by Kristen Ross-Munro and the Army Band

And an official welcome was made by Wollongong Lord Mayor Councillor Gordon Bradbery OAM and the ambassadors were sashed before giving the Relay For Life Oath ahead of the opening lap for survivors and carers.

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