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Posted on 10 August, 2018 in Community

Mingara’s Relay for Life

By Binns Rebecca

Where did it all begin?

Relay For Life began in the USA in May 1985 when the colorectal surgeon, Dr. Gordy Klatt, wanted to raise awareness of cancer and boost the income of his local cancer charity. He spent a gruelling twenty-four hours circulating a track in Tacoma, Washington, and raised over US$27,000, and showed that one person really can make a difference.

Since then, Relay For Life has become the largest fundraising event for cancer in the world. Celebrated by more than 4 million people in over 20 countries, this inspirational overnight event empowers and unites local communities to fight cancer.

Relay For Life arrived in Australia in 1999 when the Victorian community of Murrumbeena raised over $75,000 for Cancer Council. Relays are now held in every Australian State and Territory, with more than 134,000 participants raising over $24 million every single year. Every dollar raised goes towards funding the Cancer Council’s vital research, prevention and support programs, many of which help people in your community every day.

This thing called Relay For Life – What is it?

Relay is a chance for communities to recognise and celebrate those who have overcome cancer or are undergoing treatment, as well as the people who care for them. The relay also provides an opportunity to celebrate the memory of loved ones lost to cancer.

Jayne Moloney of Cancer Council NSW says “Relay For Life can be a hard concept to explain to a newcomer, simply because Relay For Life isn’t just one thing. It isn’t just a walk. It isn’t just ceremonies. It isn’t just for people who have had cancer, or for people who have lost someone to cancer. Relay means different things to different people”.

“You can walk all night, or you can sit happily by your tent and watch it all happen in front of you.  You can Relay to remember somebody, to celebrate your own survivorship, to fight cancer or you can just do it with friends because it’s fun, and it may remind you how lucky you are.   You can listen to bands, you can eat, you can play games, you can sleep or you can stay awake all night. The beauty of Relay is that you can do as much or as little as you like, you really just need to show up, get involved and see what it is all about”.

Mingara and its relationship with Relay For Life

Mingara Relay For Life was born 17 years ago and is the only Relay in the state to be named after it’s venue.  Mingara has been a proud supporter of the event, ensuring that we can provide a safe, family-friendly venue for Cancer Council NSW to run this event, and fundraise knowing that they have no venue costs, and can provide a family-friendly, safe venue for their participants.

Mingara’s Sport and Community Manager, Sarah Ferman loves Relay For Life and spends each Relay weekend working alongside Cancer Council NSW and volunteering her time at the event and can be seen welcoming teams and registering participants.

The event is the single biggest annual fundraising event held on the Central Coast with over 1000 people each year registering to attend and raising over $200,000 each year.

How does Relay help our community?

Money raised at Relay For Life stays right here on the Central Coast, supporting local cancer patients and their families with Cancer Council NSW’s local support services like home help (cleaning, lawn mowing, meal service), providing legal and financial support, support groups and information, prevention and nutrition programs in our schools and of course research.

Mingara Recreation Club is proud to have been involved with this event since inception, and works closely with Cancer Council NSW on this event, and across other local initiatives, such as the Cancer Council NSW resource van, which enables the organisation to ‘take Cancer Council NSW to the community’ making it’s information and services even more accessible to our local community.

Meet Team Kea

Team Kea came along to their first Relay For Life in October 2010 at Mingara.  Just 6 weeks earlier, they had endured the devastating loss of their beautiful daughter Kea to cancer.  We asked Kea’s parents, Fiona and Ian, to share with us how they became involved in Mingara Relay For Life.  Their touching words are below:

We were first invited to join a Relay team by the Waratah Medical Centre- Kanwal, as some of their staff were relaying in memory of their cancer patients.  How grateful we are that they personally invited me to participate and that we had the courage to attend. We registered and sent out a few emails to people in case they wanted to sponsor us.  When we arrived at Mingara Athletic’s track with a friend from the Medical Centre, another friend who worked for Mingara at the track (Trish Dawson) was waiting and greeted us with a heartfelt hug as we entered and she excitedly told me that earlier that day she had seen a lady stitching a photo of Kea which was printed on fabric onto the Relay For Life shirt of a young man.  Trish recognised the lady sewing the fabric patch as a lady she knew through her children’s sport. This lady was Julie-Ann Rogers who was part of the volunteer organising committee for Mingara Relay For Life.  It was one of those moments that reminds you what a small world the Central Coast is, as Julie-Ann’s son Brad was in Kea’s year at Gosford High School and was the young man who escorted Kea to the Year 12 formal.

After finishing school, Brad had joined the Air Force and been posted interstate. Kea and Brad remained in contact and he was shocked and saddened when he learned of Kea’s diagnosis. He was away on deployment when Kea passed away so could not attend Kea’s funeral. His mum Julie –Ann suggested to Brad that he could attend relay with her that year and relay in memory of Kea. Trish introduced me to Julie- Ann and we then found Brad relaying on the track in bare feet. He told us that Kea had to suffer and endure pain and discomfort during her cancer journey and that if he walked barefoot he would have some discomfort. I had not met Brad before, and as I approached him he knew straight away that I was Kea’s mum. We embraced and walked together sharing many special moments and also many tears.

Meeting Brad at relay in 2010 gave us the answer to how we would honour Kea, her memory and make a difference in the fight against cancer.  We would start our own Team and raise money and awareness for cancer research. That year I then printed Kea’s photo on fabric patches as Brad had done and we relayed. We had two more of Kea’s high school friends contact us, and they have relayed with us each year ever since.  Mingara Relay For Life has brought so many blessings into our lives, including meeting friends of Kea’s who have now become our close friends.

Mingara Relay For Life has helped us to heal and being able to honour Kea’s memory by helping to raise funds is such a joy. Someone asked me how much Team Kea had raised over the years, and I was shocked and delighted to discover it had been over $60 000.

Since our first relay we have had other team members diagnosed, including Kea’s uncle with bowel cancer in 2016 and my Kea’s adopted Auntie Debbie with breast cancer in 2015. Kea’s Grandmother is a breast cancer survivor of 29 years, she is is now 82 and loves to walk in the survivor and carers walk each year.  Ian and I walk as carers, and while we don’t have our survivor we feel Kea so very near to us at this lap each year.

We walk in remembrance

We walk in remembrance of the wonderful memories she has given us and the hope that one day, through research, that this world will be cancer free. We also walk for those who have lost the fight and for those who have lost loved ones. Relay brings people together from all walks of life who have one thing in common, HOPE.

Relay brings together our friends and family from across Australia. We gather together to share memories of our precious Kea who left this world too early. It can be a sad time, but for the most part, is uplifting. It is a bond that we all share because cancer touches the lives of all of us.

Our favourite part

My favourite part of relay is setting up, packing up and everything in between. The highlight I think of almost every relay would have to be the Candlelight ceremony where we can remember loved ones.

There have been so many great memories over the last 7 years that it would be hard to single out any one moment. I would like to think that the best memories are yet to come. Through the hard work of everyone involved in Mingara Relay For Life and the money that is raised, we Relay in the hope that a cure will be found and that people don’t have to endure the heartache of losing the ones they love.”

The Committee

Mingara Relay For Life is organised by a group of passionate, inspiring group of volunteers who generously give their time and work tirelessly to organise the event for months before the big day.  On the weekend of Relay they work around the clock from set-up on Friday until pack-down on Sunday.

2017 Mingara Relay For  Life

In 2017, the mighty Mingara Relay For Life took a beating with the weather but it well and truly showed the true spirit of Relay that we all know and love.  Participants set up camp in torrential rain with happy faces and no complaints, reminding us exactly why Relay participants are so amazing.  They are dedicated, inspiring and there is nothing that stops them walking the track. Not rain, not puddles, not sore feet, not wet clothes. Nothing.  The worse the conditions throughout the day, the more it seemed to bring people together, even without words – people knew they were all fighting for the same cause, all walking for someone they loved, for a purpose, and no amount of rain, mud or leaking tents were going to get in the way of that.

A remarkable committee was incredible and literally brought their own sunshine to the event, happily welcoming teams with hugs and smiles – it was like nobody had told them about the rain.  They had to alter so many of their well-laid plans throughout the day and night as they adapted to the conditions, and they did so with smiles, great ideas and positivity. They were truly remarkable and inspiring.

It was almost like magic when the rain stopped for the Opening Ceremony and again for Candlelight!

Our brand new grandstand, which had only just opened at the track which was the perfect place to set up Hope bags and protect them from the weather.  The visual was almost like a waterfall of beautiful hope bags and it was a special memorial for Relayers to walk over to and spend a moment reading them and reflecting.

The event itself had many amazing moments, the Opening Ceremony that packed a punch with a mission impact on cancer statistics, and inspirational speakers like bowel cancer survivor Hollie Fielder – 24 sharing her cancer journey.  The Box Car Rally was a fun highlight and a beautiful Candlelight Ceremony which brought everyone together as they remembered the people that they have loved and lost to cancer.

This 2017 event raised over $185,000 and was a wonderful reminder of how special this event is and the inspiring people that it brings to the track.

The committee and participants were exhausted and wet but still managed some Sunday morning Zumba before hugging everybody goodbye and thank each other for another successful and memorable Mingara Relay For  Life.

The 2018 Mingara Relay For Life

Join the thousands of Australians who take part in Cancer Council’s Relay For Life each year in the fight against cancer: start or join a team in the Mingara 2018 Relay today!

Start time: 3pm, Saturday 13th October 2018
End time:  9am, Sunday 14th October 2018

Find out more here about Mingara Relay For Life

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