Jo Russell has put the call out to family and friends: Relay For Life is returning to Claudelands Events Centre in Hamilton on Saturday March 14 and her team Plod Along will be there.

The team was formed for last year's Relay For Life, which happened to fall on Jo's birthday.

"I always thought it would be cool to do but never got around to it," she says.

However, after her brother Chris was diagnosed with bowel cancer in May 2018, Jo had all the motivation she needed to get the team together.

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With Chris not yet 50 at the time, Jo says the diagnosis was a "total shock" for the family.

"It wasn't hard to get them on board, with team members hailing from Hamilton, Morrinsville and Te Kuiti and ranging in age from 10 to 71.

"We wanted to give as much support to the Cancer Society as possible for the help they've given Chris."

The 12-hour event is one of the most important fundraisers for the Cancer Society, with all money raised staying in the region to provide supportive care for people affected by cancer.

It's not just friends and family who got behind the team. The children from BestStart Morrinsville childcare centre, where Jo works, raised money with a dress-up day and decorated the team's candlebags for the evening remembrance ceremony at dusk.

One of the highlights of the day for Jo was being able to celebrate her birthday with family at the event and marking the close of Relay For Life with a slice of birthday cake.

It was also the live entertainment and sense of community spirit that made the day memorable, says Jo.

"It's very humbling to see all these people together. When you're there, even though you don't know each other, it's like one big family. Everyone is so friendly. You're all there for the same reason.

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"It's an amazing thing to be part of. The atmosphere, the camaraderie, just knowing you're helping in some way. And to do it as a family and with friends, it's really special."

• Registrations for Relay For Life are open now, click here.

About Relay For Life

Relay For Life will take place on Saturday March 14, 10am – 10pm at Claudelands Events Centre in Hamilton.

It's an inspirational and fun team event that brings people together to celebrate cancer survivors, remember loved ones lost to cancer and fight back by raising awareness and funds for the Cancer Society.

Teams walk or run around a track in a relay style with at least one participant on the track throughout the event, while enjoying the festival-like atmosphere and entertainment.

All funds raised from Relay For Life stay in the Waikato/Bay of Plenty region and enable the Cancer Society to provide supportive care for cancer patients, fund cancer research and deliver health promotion programmes to the community