Colour, humour at celebration of life

Thousands raised at 'very special event'

Last updated 13:00 03/03/2014
Cancer Society Relay For Life
LOVED ONE: Justine Mutch and her eight year old daughter Alysha sit with the glowing Candle Bag in memory of her mother Rosie Topp.
Rachael Watson
EXUBERANT: Rachael Watson of The Flutterbras team spins her flutter bra at the Cancer Society Relay For Life at Saxton Field.

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It was a night of remembering, celebrating, laughter, and tears as local communities came to walk together fundraising for the bi-annual Cancer Society Relay for Life at Saxton Field.

A bright coloured windmill bra, animal printed onsies, circus stars, cowboys, Indians, and pirates spent the night walking laps around the track subbing each other in and out for rest and recovery with barbecues sizzling and drinks flowing.

This year's Relay for Life had the biggest ever turnout with 105 teams entering.

The opening lap was one of reflection and celebration as survivors and carers started the relay lap being applauded by others standing on the side of the track.

Survivor Ange Bryant was part of team Janine's Queen - a team of families and friends dedicated to Janine Patrick who passed away eight months ago leaving behind her husband and three young children Sam, 8, Cooper, 6, and Fletcher, 4. Ange, who was a friend of Janine's, was battling cancer at the same time.

"It's a bit bittersweet when you go through something like that with someone and it's only you left at the end," she said. "It's about remembering the people who have fought the hard fight."

Janine's family organised the team which had been "a healing process" for them. The group wore crowns and T-shirts with Janine's face on them and bibs on their back with the letter J in memory of their loved one. They had also made a throne to honour Janine and raised their glasses to toast her and Ange.

MC Al Columbus kicked off the relay on Saturday evening calling it a "very special event" and his favourite, while Nelson Mayor Rachel Reese shared how her family had been affected by cancer. Reverend Aunty Gladys from Motueka opened the event with a karakia, which was followed by Nelson College for Boys performing their haka "Hei toto".

The event drew people of all ages, but the younger crowd were out in full force. Team #loudsouchas was made of fourteen girls aged between 15 and 19. Captain Rebecca Nutt said they decided to get involved because they had known families who had been affected by cancer.

"This is a way to show we support those people and we are fighting back and it's a big community thing, so we want to be part of it."

An impressive circus team with a juggler, wild animals, a circus master, two unicyclists, and a human ticket booth was made up of students from Nelson College for Girls and Nelson College who estimated they had raised $1500.

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Early on Sunday morning the group were wrapped up warm in their puffer jackets, scarves and hats. They said they had kept awake with an overload of Lift+, chocolate and coffee, but were feeling "tired and delirious" and ready for a bath. Charlotte Hughes, 10, from Tahunanui shaved her shoulder length strawberry hair off at the relay giving her discarded hair to be made into a wig for cancer patients. She said she was inspired by her teachers and said her new haircut felt "cool".

The "Wee willies and Winkies" from the Tasman District Council had a sizzling barbecue going to support their team members - all dressed in starry purple onsies. Accountants from Crow Horwath were dressed as Pirates of the Provisions. They along with the Mapua Ruby Thursday and the Wakefield Caffeine Crew were acknowledged for raising the most funds. The Wakefield group fundrasied by running a raffle for a Mini before the event, which gave a boost to fundraising efforts.

Flutter Bras, a group of Richmond mums who left their husbands at home with the children so they could join the relay, won the costume prize. Their "flutter bras" ranged from sizably inflated balloon-filled bra cups, a "booby trap" bra with mouse traps attached, and a "spinny bra" with mini windmills flying in the wind. Group member Lisa Quinn said she wanted to get involved as her father had passed away from cancer and her mother was a survivor. She said it was also good to have "a bit of fun" with friends.

Nelson College won the most entertaining team as they carried their school banner all night. Simon Merry walked the relay continuously from 4pm to the finish the next morning in remembrance of his brother Kim.

On Saturday evening candles marked the tracks in memory of loved ones who had been lost to cancer. A ceremony was taken by Cancer Society President Bill Findlater while local talent Paul Madsen sang Hallelujah and Raise me up. The candles were kept in bags with messages and decorations from those who had lost someone to cancer.

Sea cadets and Nelson cadet union supported the event. It was an emotional morning for the Nelson cadet union who, for the first time, released purple helium balloons at the closing ceremony, after one of their officers, Justin Williams lost his life to cancer.

Centre Manager for the Nelson Cancer Society and the event manager Linda Lucre said the support for the relay had been "overwhelming" and estimated more than $200 000 had been raised. "It was really fantastic. We had the whole community behind us, the teams were awesome. The committee were amazing we had great weather. How do you say thank you to everybody, because they have all just done so much," she said.

Tasman Mayor Richard Kempthorne spoke at the closing of the event and thanked everyone for their "tremendous" efforts.

- The Nelson Mail

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