Shetland’s third Relay for Life in aid of Cancer Research UK promises to be bigger and better than ever, with a record 133 teams and thousands of individuals due at Clickimin tomorrow.
The number of teams is more than 50 per cent up from the total at the last relay in 2008, and is the highest of any community in the UK. “We’re certainly showing the rest of the UK how to do Relay for Life,” said chairwoman of the organising committee Olive MacLeod.
The event goes from strength to strength, and this year for the first time there will be in gala in the afternoon as well to encourage family participation.
Teams taking part comprise people from all over Shetland and their members will take it in turns to make their way round the running track at the leisure complex in an all-night effort to raise cash to help beat cancer. Around 1,900 people are expected to run, walk or make their way round in any way they can during the 12-hours relay.
Many will be in fancy dress – there will be prizes for innovative attire this year – and nearly all will be remembering loved ones they have lost to cancer and celebrating those who have survived.
Survivors, in their specially coloured T-shirts, will claim their own record this year too – 112 of them will take part in their lap of honour, the highest number of survivors in the UK to take part in any relay. This will happen just after the opening ceremony, featuring the Jarl’s Squad and Aestaewest drummers.
Most participants, and others who will not be there, have decorated candle bags which will play a vital part in the Candle of Hope Ceremony, a highlight of the event. This is when hundreds of candles in their decorated bags – around 800 last time with more expected this year – are lit in memory of loved ones, their light forming a poignant reminder of the reason for the relay.
This ceremony will take place on the running track at 10pm, but there will be plenty to do before and after that, right up until prizegiving at around 7.30am the following morning. This will be followed by the final flourish of the closing ceremony.
Music has always been a central part of the event and this year the music marquee will boast performances from local artists May & Mackie, Jillian Isbister, Da Fustra, Sheila Henderson, Garry n Friends and the Asta Band.
There will be more music on the track from, among others, the Whalsay Accordion Boys and Scaldin Bragg. And a special treat will be a moondance performance from winner of Shetland’s Got Talent Kevin Stove.
The exercise and relaxation marquee has been added to this year with a chance to try the recently-acquired dance mats, pilates, salsa, merengue or line dancing – or to relax with yoga or massage. And there will be lots of glorious food available all night, donated or cooked by volunteers.
Also new this year will be the gala afternoon between 2.30pm to 4.30pm, a real family fun part of the event with stalls including face painting, hair braiding, beat the goalie and candy floss.
From the beginning the mammoth event is sure to be fun. There is always great camaraderie among the teams and members are looking forward to taking part – sometimes in unlikely ways.
Team member Carly Sutherland is one of the 2010 Strollers team, which was inspired by her eight-year-old cousin who lost her mother to cancer recently. The team comprises the extended family, and Carly, who has never taken part before, said: “It something different for a Saturday.”
Another team, Walk the Line, the title taken from a Johnny Cash song, is also mainly a family affair. Leader Valerie Thomson said the team, who will wear cowboy hats, will remember loved ones and celebrate those who have “come out the other side”. Valerie, who has been in both previous relays, said: “The music’s quite a boost, [the relay] gets tiring. It’s good fun but it’s an emotional night when you think about the reason for doing it.”
The younger members of the team do their stint first, she said, in case they want to go home, but many will stay all night with someone being on the track at all time, even in the lull which occurs around 3am.
The J Team is being organised by Jacqueline Johnson and boasts 14 adults, including one in a wheelchair and one cancer survivor, and two children.
The team will wear Viking helmets, said Jacqueline, “if they arrive in time” with flashing helmets “so we can find each other when it gets dark”.
The team is very sensibly bringing a caravan to Clickimin so that they can grab a cup of tea whenever they want, and some will leave early in the evening and come back later.
Jacqueline thoroughly enjoyed taking part two years ago and this year her team has already raised over £1,000 with Sunday teas. “We’re so grateful for all the donations,” she said.
As at any big gathering the emergency services have a presence at the event. The Fire and Rescue services are entering a team – and will have a fire engine parked at Clickimin in case of a call-out. The Red Cross will be on hand all night and the Macmillan Nurses have entered a team.
And there are other relayers in surprising places. A couple from Nottingham will be travelling to Shetland on holiday tomorrow night and asked organisers if they could do their own laps on the boat. “They’ll have a captive audience,” Olive said. The couple intend to head straight to Clickimin on arrival.
And another supporter of the relay will be on a birthday bus celebrating a 21st birthday that night and will be taking a bucket along for donations.
“It’s certainly going to be a bigger relay than any that’s been before,” said Olive. “The response has been amazing and the committee has worked very hard, which will show through on the night. I’m excited and looking forward to it but there’s a bit of nerves in case there’s something we haven’t thought about.”
Olive will organise another relay in 2012 as the chairwoman generally is in post for two events, she said.
The last Relay for Life raised £84,000, a UK record two years ago. This was beaten last summer and the record which Shetland hopes to beat tomorrow stands at £121,000.