Wairarapa cancer survivors and supporters turned out in force at the weekend in what was, undoubtedly, one of the most successful Relay for Life events.
For 16 and a half hours, more than 750 people cut a half-kilometre lap around the Clareville Showgrounds, raising more than $150,000 for the Wairarapa Cancer Society.
Kicking off on Saturday afternoon, the participants ran through the night, and splashes of early morning rain until the closing ceremony shortly after 9am yesterday.
Exhausted but exhilarated, Wairarapa Cancer Society centre manager Amber Arkell said the event exceeded all expectations.
“Relay is such an experience. It’s been seven months in the making, and to have it come to fruition is just … I don’t have the words.”
She said that based on previous events, the organisers anticipated around 450 people and were staggered by the number who turned up.
“We had 44 teams and 750 participants registered, but no doubt many people turned up on the day and got involved.
“Around the opening ceremony with all our survivors and carers, we’d be knocking on the door of 1000 people.”
Arkell said after a series of rain-plagued fundraisers, she was banking on good weather for the relay – and the sun came to the party.
“We just had this area around Clareville that was sunny, with 1000 people. It exceeded all expectations.”
With a new organising committee bringing a fresh take to the event, she said she hoped people walked away having had a great experience.
“There’s no ‘I’ in team, and my team just bought into the crazy. We had passed our $120,000 goal before the event had even started.”
Arkell said as the biggest fundraising event for Wairarapa Cancer Society, the money would enable continued support and services for cancer patients and their families.
“Whether that’s drives to Wellington, oncology support, counselling services and a whole bunch of new initiatives to support young people, who have different needs with a cancer diagnosis.”
Wairarapa emergency personnel supported the event, including volunteer firefighters and Wairarapa police, who joined in on some laps, with a performance from local band Dragonfly adding to the vibe.
Chris van Gerven was awarded the Spirit of Relay for clocking an impressive 100km in 16 hours.
Arkell said the best part of the event was that the money raised would stay in Wairarapa.
“I’ve had cancer twice, and I know how tough it is out there. Life is expensive, and everyone is affected by cancer – there is always a personal story.”