A record number of people took to the Clickimin track last night in the cancer research fundraising spectacular Relay for Life. This was the fifth Shetland relay and had more than 2,000 participants, with many more coming to support the event.
“You are famous”, the crowds were told in a opening speech by Cancer Research UK head of fundraising Frances Milner, who had come to Shetland with national director of marketing Richard Taylor, specifically to see how Shetland raises so much money at its relays – the total of £279,000 in the last relay is still a record.
The buzz around the track as the teams mustered was palpable. Members were preparing for the all-night sponsored event, taking it in turns to walk round the track.
As Ms Milner said: “Every step and every pound raised will make a difference. We are going to beat cancer.” And, she said, the number of cancer survivors, 160, who would take part in the survivors’ lap of honour was testament to the impact fundraising was making on cancer research.
The sun came out as survivors in their purple t-shirts gathered on the track to see veteran fundraiser Ann Moore cut a purple ribbon. And they moved slowly off, young and old, walking easily or painfully, to cheers from the Jarl’s Squad members and crowds lining the track.
Other teams had embellished their regulation turquoise t-shirts, which bore the message “united we are stronger than cancer”, with their own themes. There were red boas for Ruby’s Jewels, rainbow wigs for Bright Sparks and Viking helmets for We’ve got the Horne. Particularly striking was the Minions team with the yellow and black hats they had crocheted themselves. The team comprised three generations of a family, with grandmother Kath Manson walking in memory of her grandson Martin Mills and her granddaughter Kirsty walking to remember Granny Odie from Yell.
The teams followed the survivors round the track with the Jarl’s Squad, itself a registered team, joining in.
Some teams made their all-night task as hard as possible – the Loganair Sumburgh team had walked to Lerwick, and the Army team carried 35kilo rucksacks round the track at a remarkably brisk pace.
Throughout the evening there was live music on the track from local bands, including Sheila Henderson Band, Shanty Yellmen, Hom Bru and Kansa, playing to an appreciative crowd. And there were more crowds at the food stalls, with tempting aromas issuing from the barbeque marquee.
The centrepiece of the evening was the Candle of Hope ceremony at 10pm, just as the light was fading. At this time candles in their white candle bags around the track were lit, mostly in memory of loved ones, although some celebrated survivors. illuminated the messages on the bags, some as simple and poignant as “miss you Dad”. These would be kept alight through the night
At the same time lights on the hillside were lit to show the words “hope” and “cure”. And hope was the theme of a poetry competition set recently, and the winners read their poems out at the ceremony.
The mood was upbeat, as it had been earlier in the gala afternoon, when family fun had seen bouncy castles and candy floss take centre stage.
All proceeds are going to Cancer Research UK, and the committee thanked all the sponsors who gave so generously in cash and kind.
• For a full report and more photos, see Friday’s Shetland Times.