Hundreds brave rain and gales for charity


 Survivors and supporters came together through driving rain and high winds on Saturday to raise money for the annual Cancer Society Relay for Life.

The event was forced to change venues at the last minute on Friday due to safety concerns around setting up a tent city and stage at Clive's Farndon Park. Instead, people completed their laps at Hawke's Bay Regional Sports Park beginning with an opening ceremony at 11am.

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The event was cut back from 24 hours to just 10, but that didn't stop people making the most of dressing up and getting involved.

"We had about 70 teams signed up and 65 teams represented," Event manager David Trim said. "Some were from Wairoa and couldn't make it because of the conditions and others were called out to be on standby in case of emergency."

Despite miserable weather and changes, about 800 to 1000 participants took part at peak times. Of that number 180 were cancer survivors who launched the event by doing the first lap of the relay.

"It is a great achievement for the survivors, it's quite emotional for some of them," Hawke's Bay Cancer Society centre manager Kay Collins said. "It's often the first time they get to look back and think how far they have come and, for us, it's an acknowledgement of their efforts."

The fact people came out in spite of "driving rain and wind" said a lot about the way cancer affected our society, Ms Collins said. "We were well supported, we thought that lots and lots of people wouldn't turn up, but that wasn't the case.

"I was really impressed with the enthusiasm. I think people really appreciated that the committee had gone all out to try and make it work in a really short period of time."

Relay participants and their support crews were able to stay relatively dry under the shelter of the Sports Park grandstand.

The event's usual spread across a 24-hour period was crammed into 10 hours making for an upbeat event, Mr Trim said.

"Everything ran perfectly to the new schedule; it felt like there was something happening every five minutes."

A total of about 600 balloons were released into the air about 4.40pm, each with a pledge inside. "The pledges were written on a piece of paper and put inside the balloons before they were blown up with helium.

"They state one thing people can do to fight back against cancer. Whether it's taking mum to get tested or making sure their brother gets a prostate check."

A candle-light ceremony was also held as darkness fell. "It was a fantastic day, there was just this amazing spirit."

Mr Trim said early indications showed last year's donation total of $130,000 would be reached.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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