Ruth Gollan – Hastings Relay For Life

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The Hastings Relay For Life will be held at Stuart Park (Port Macquarie) on the 2 & 3 April. Chrissy Jones chats with Ruth Gollan about this local annual event, that is celebrating its 10th Anniversary in 2011.

The Relay For Life has been around for a while now. When and how did it start?

The very first Relay For Life was held in 1985 in Washington DC, when Dr. Gordon Klatt walked for 24 hours to raise money for Cancer research in memory of a friend who died from Cancer.

$24,000 was raised that first year. In fact, Relay For Life events held around the world have raised over $1.5 billion to support programs to eliminate Cancer.

Patty Delaney, Regional Manager Mid North Coast, attended the Relay For Life in Tacoma, Washington State in 1999. She was so impressed with the Relay, she encouraged Cancer Council to run a Relay For Life in NSW in 2000.

The inaugural Relay in Australia involved 44 teams taking to the track in Campbelltown, raising over $100,000. Since that momentous occasion, more than 130 communities throughout Australia have raised over $40 million for their Cancer Councils in the fight against Cancer. It has evolved into the largest fundraising event in Australia – with more than 100,000 participants nationally each year

What is Relay for Life?

Relay For Life is an overnight, community fundraising event organised by a local committee of volunteers. Money is raised in the lead up to the event for research, support and education programs run by Cancer Council NSW.

The strength of local community support is the key to the success of Relay For Life. Every event is coordinated by a volunteer committee, drawn from the local community, who then recruit team captains and teams to participate in the event and to raise money towards the fight against Cancer. Cancer Council provides logistic support, training and administration support and event guidelines.

Relay For Life is an opportunity for people to come together and Celebrate cancer survivors and carers, Remember those who have been lost to the disease and to Fight Back against the illness that claims so many in our community. Celebrate, Remember and Fight Back is the very foundation of the event.

Relay is an overnight event, because Cancer never sleeps. Someone who has Cancer battles it 24-hours a day, and RFL represents a day in the life of someone with Cancer.

It’s thanks to the volunteer committees that Relay has become Cancer Council’s most important fundraising event – not just in terms of contributing funds, but also making a significant impact on Cancer Council’s mission to defeat Cancer through engaging the community in the fight.

This engagement includes encouraging non-smoking in all public areas, promotion of the ‘eat it to beat it’ and ‘2 fruit and 5 veg’ healthy eating programs and encouraging physically activity. These steps alone can assist in preventing two-thirds of Cancer deaths.

Other important initiatives of Cancer Councils that RFL helps to fund are the SunSmart Schools, Prostate Awareness Campaigns, Understanding Cancer and Living Well After Cancer workshops. Cancer Council also trains community speakers and advocates to spread the word and provides funding to assist many local support groups.

Recently, Cancer Council NSW piloted a cutting edge youth sun protection initiative, the Sun Sound. Produced by musician Ben Lee, the Sun Sound is a short catchy jingle played at regular intervals on loudspeakers at beaches and other outdoor venues, prompting young people to protect their skin from the sun.

Sun Sound has received positive results in trials, with strong understanding among young people of the Sun Sound message (84%). This initiative has commenced roll out across NSW and will be further expanded in 2011.

In 2010, the Sun Sound received international recognition in the advertising and media industry for creative innovation and excellence, receiving a Gold CLIO award at the prestigious CLIO CREATIVE AWARDS IN New York, and two silver Lion awards at the Cannes Advertising Festival in France 2010.

When’s the next Hastings Relay For Life, and what can we expect?

The Hastings Relay For Life will be held at Stuart Park (Port Macquarie) on the 2 & 3 April. The Hastings region first held a Relay in 2002 and since then have raised in excess of $560,000 to help in the fight to defeat Cancer.

2011 marks the 10th anniversary of the Hastings Relay For Life and a new mix of experienced and ‘novice’ volunteer committee members.

Newly appointed Chairperson, Warden Mersey is proud of his team.

“Our committee has a wonderful diversity of talent and skills,” said Mr Mersey. “Building on the success of the previous Chair, Karen Slater, we are all looking forward to organising the best possible Relay For Life for Hastings.”

Ruth Gollan, Community Relations Coordinator for the Cancer Council’s Mid North Coast regional office, believes this committee has the perfect mix of enthusiasm and knowledge.

“I am happy to see many of the previous committee members return, so they can share their past experience with those new to the event,” said Ms Gollan. “I thank the entire committee and local community, on behalf of the local Cancer patients who will benefit from their generosity.”

Building on the success of last year’s Relay For Life, which raised just over $103,000, the 2011 committee has set a challenge to have 100 teams participate and to raise $110,000. This means they will need local support to achieve this goal. Already local businesses Pet Stock and Holiday Coast Credit Union have jumped onboard as major sponsors, with Southern Cross Community Connect offering support, via radio (2MC & Star FM) and online promotions.

Local businessman, Michael Downey from Eco Wash, will be offering a waterless Ecowash mobile car cleaning service at the Relay, with 10% of sales going to Cancer Council.

What does the Relay mean to our local community?

As a nongovernment organisation, Cancer Council NSW relies on the fundraising efforts of local communities to continue their work in research, prevention and support services for Cancer patients and their families.

Funds you raise are put to work in your local community, as well as funding Cancer research. A glimpse of recent local Cancer Council initiatives include:

Hastings Cancer Network – FREE Membership

Cancer Council Mid North Coast have been instrumental in uniting a number of cancer services and community members to form the Hasting Cancer Network, whose aim is to improve services for local Cancer patients; initiatives to date include the development of the Hastings Community Cancer Services Directory.

New members of the Hastings Cancer Network are always welcome (membership is free). For more information, contact: Vanessa Crossley on (02) 6659 8404.

Pilot program relieves the stress of travel and accommodation

In 2010, Port Macquarie was the chosen location to pilot a state wide travel and accommodation booking service for people travelling to Newcastle and Sydney for treatment. This program has reduced the associated stress for people not familiar with these cities. An evaluation of the project will be available early 2011.

Additional in home support for Cancer patients

Cancer Council Mid North Coast have  partnered with Manning Support Services Inc, to provide in home support care for Cancer patients through a team of dedicated specially trained volunteers. This program will commence in February 2011.

Local Legal Services reduces the burden for Cancer Patients

Cancer Council Mid North Coast has engaged with local Port Macquarie lawyers to be part of the Cancer Council Legal Referral Service.

A service that provides pro bono consultation and advice for Cancer patients needing assistance. For more information about this service, please contact Brenna Smith on 6659 8408 or our Helpline 131 120.

Additionally, in the last year Cancer Council has assisted over 300 Hastings residents to seek support via their Helpline (131120) or to contact support groups.

More information about Cancer Council achievements on a state-wide and national level can be found on their website at:

If you would like to be part of this great community event and help find a cure for Cancer, why not gather a team together, or simply join an existing team. You can register at: and an information and registration pack will be posted to you. Or, contact Cancer Council’s Mid North Coast office on 6659 8400.

Fundraising is easy; you can run a raffle (raffle books supplied by Cancer Council) have a boot sale or auction, BBQ, mufti day at work or any one of hundreds of other ideas. A fundraising guidebook is included in your information pack when you register.

See you all at the 2011 Hastings Relay for Life, 2 and 3 April at Stuart Park.

Thank you Ruth.

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