As we drove in the car I chatted to the kids about where we were going and what an amazing thing we were about to do. We were hyped up and a little unsure about what to expect. I could never have imagined how meaningful and fun the next 18 hours would be.
It was a smidge after 4pm as we wove our way through the crowds on the busy athletics track, searching for our own Relay for Life team.
Relay For Life is a fundraising event that brings communities together to celebrate and remember the lives of those who have battled cancer. The relay is not about being the fastest, the fittest or walking the longest. It is about raising money for the Cancer Council through the generosity of donations, sponsorship and the sale of items before, during and after the event. All to fund cancer research, support services and education programs.
I noticed a group of familiar faces and headed on over. Our team was made up of members of our school community. I quickly looked around greeting the many parents, children and teachers who had gathered as part of the team. I felt a rich buzz of excitement and noticed the beaming smiles on the faces of everyone.
Kids and adults alike were dressing in fairy wings and Dr Seuss style hats. Here to have fabulous fun while raising money.
The relay required team members to take turns carrying a baton while moving around the track, for a staggering 18 hours straight. I went in search of our baton and was delighted to find a wonderful group of Year 6 girls laughing, skipping and dancing down the track as they happily passed the baton to each other.
They posed for my photo and I left them to enjoy their fun in the sun, while I continued to walk the track.
I walked slowly and observantly and began to notice the many different team names, the signs people carried and the photos of loved ones on T-Shirts and posters. I felt the whoosh as the runners flew by on the inside lane. I walked beside prams, wheelchairs, the elderly and the very young. All of us smiling, laughing and extremely grateful to be here in this moment, on this day and to be healthy enough in our bodies to able to walk around this track.
Then I spotted my own daughter. My heart surged with pride as I watched her smiling and chatting. We were here as a family, as well as a team, and as I watched her walking lap after lap, supporting this cause I could never imagine being more fulfilled as a parent.
My little relayers happily walked late into the night.
As the sun drifted beneath the horizon I felt the mood of the event shift. One of the most moving parts of the relay was approaching, The Candle Light Ceremony. One by one I noticed paper bags placed around the edge of the track. Each one with a heartfelt message, maybe a drawing and possibly a photo. Each one a tribute to a very special person. Each one a reminder of why we were here.
Then as the darkness swallowed the track all the teams gathered together for the lighting of three candles.
The first to represent the past, and all those who have lost their fight.
The second to represent the present and those who have survived and those who are currently fighting their battle.
Finally the candle for the future and for the hope that was alive in each of us that night.
As the lights were turned out I looked across the track and there was the word spelled out with candles. H O P E
One by one we all now made our way back onto the track for one very solemn lap.
A track now illuminated by the hundreds of messages adorning the candle bags.
As 10am came and the relay drew to a close, the weary teams gathered to celebrate their success.
Exhausted and elated knowing we had all fought back.
I would like to thank my wonderful friend, and our team leader Nadia, for being an inspiring and driving force behind our team. It was a fitting tribute to her hard work that we won The Spirit of the Relay award.
In the words of my team
We don’t like cancer here or there.
We don’t like cancer anywhere.
Until next year.