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Raising money for Bermuda’s cancer charity

The north field of the Bermuda National Sports Centre in Devonshire will soon be known as the “place where Relay for Life happens” — if the Bermuda Cancer and Health Centre has anything to do with it.

Bermuda's first Relay for Life event will be held on May 30 and 31 at 6pm at the north field to raise money for cancer charity Bermuda Cancer and Health Centre. Relay for Life was started by the American Cancer Society several years ago. It is now so popular in the United States that it is said to raise a $1,000 a day for cancer research.

During Relay for Life, teams of ten to 15 people will walk a track over a 24 hour period. Each team is expected to raise $100. The event will include speakers, fun competitions, cancer survivor activities and a ceremony to remember those who have died from cancer.

Arrangements for the fundraiser began over a year ago. Ron Spencer, a Colonial Insurance employee, was responsible for starting the drive to bring Relay for Life to Bermuda. His mother, Pam Short, died of cancer in 2008 and he learned about Relay for Life through his sister, who took part in several of the events.

Bermuda Cancer and Health are now working in conjunction with the American Cancer Society. The focus is on getting teams together. Each team member is expected to raise $100.

“The teams are growing as we speak,” said one of the organisers, Deborah Narraway. “We are looking for ten to 15 people to form each team.”

Ms Narraway said they hoped to have over 250 participating. There is, so far, a lot of corporate interest.

“The Catholic churches are challenging themselves,” said Ms Narraway. “They would like to get a team per parish. A lot of it is the logistics of bringing together your team, naming it and deciding who is going to be on what team.”

There are four main ceremonies during Relay for Life. For the opening ceremony they announce why they are there. Cancer survivors walk the first lap of the track.

“A survivor is anyone who has heard the words ‘you have cancer',” said Ms Narraway. “There are a number of people who are newly diagnosed who don't consider themselves survivors yet, but the moment you hear those words you are a survivor. For the second lap, survivors will invite their caregivers to walk. A caregiver is anyone who has supported a cancer survivor. It is not just the spouse or parent, but a person who made a meal for the survivor to put in their freezer, who sat on the end of a two hour phone call at 3am. It is anyone who lent support. Those are all caregivers.”

After that, teams will walk for 24 hours in whatever their team rotation looks like. The next big ceremony will be the the Luminaria, Ceremony of Remembrance at 10pm.

“People can purchase a Luminaria bag or make a donation for one,” said Ms Narraway. “You make a message for loved ones still here or loved ones lost, or anyone who has been touched by cancer. It could just be a generic message on how you feel about cancer. Those bags get put around the track and the lights get dimmed and the entire next part of the ceremony is lit by those bags. People walk and have a quiet moment, and the atmosphere changes on the field to one of remembrance. Everyone is there for their own personal reason. Things start livening up towards midnight. Activities will go all night long whether it is competitions to decorate the portable bathrooms or silent bingo or whatever. People continue to walk the track. The next day is Fight Back.”

Fight Back activities start at mid afternoon on the second day and is geared towards fighting back against cancer. There is a podium and people have the opportunity to say their piece about cancer and how to fight it.

“We would love to see the day when it is mandatory for physicians to report cancer stats in Bermuda,” said Ms Narraway. “We don't have that at the moment. If everyone who attended Relay spoke and said they wanted mandatory stats, maybe we could make a change in our own country.”

Relay for Life is open to everyone and costs $10 to enter. There will be a fairlike atmosphere with food and fun activities going on.

“We are reaching out to every organisation on the Island, scouts, schools, whoever, to form a team,” said Ms Narraway.

Bermuda Cancer and Health Centre are hoping to have most of the teams registered by April 30.

For more information about Relay for Life see them on Facebook under Bermuda Relay for Life or see their website Bermudarelay.com. For information about forming a team e-mail team@relayforlife-bermuda.org.

Also see this video for a global overview on Relay for Life www.youtube.com/watch?v=BtYIgweDDVw#t=79

Patrina Paynter scores in a game of bra pong organised during by the Bermuda Cancer and Health Centre's Relay for Life kickoff event held earlier this month. The cancer charity is looking for teams to sign up for Relay for Life to be held in May.(Photo by Glenn Tucker)

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Published March 26, 2014 at 9:00 am (Updated March 25, 2014 at 6:39 pm)

Raising money for Bermuda’s cancer charity

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