Relay full of rewards
FOR Wangaratta’s Lauren Kneebone, the annual Relay For Life event is more than remembering friends and family who have been lost to cancer or celebrating with those who have fought off the cruel disease.
It’s a chance to make a real difference to those who are living with cancer, and those whom it will touch in years to come, by raising much-needed funds for research.
Lauren’s team - The Merry Marchers - started nine years ago after Lauren’s mother said she’d like to participate.
“Our group is made up of members from a number of different backgrounds, so I wanted to choose a fun, friendly name that everyone could feel comfortable with,” she said.
Enjoying the stories, sadness, laughter and friendship that the Relay For Life event provides is not the only reason Lauren works so hard each year to raise as much money as she can for cancer research.
When Lauren was pregnant, her husband Richard was diagnosed with a rosette forming glioneuronal brain tumour - a rare, invasive tumour which at the time had only been discovered in 31 other patients worldwide.
Although the tumour was benign, Richard had to undergo lifesaving surgery, followed by a long period of recovery.
Without the research, trials and medical breakthroughs which had gone before, Lauren knows that Richard may not have ever met their son, Paxton, now 13.
“Even though the tumour was non-cancerous, we know how lucky we are that Richard was able to get the treatment and surgery that he did and if it wasn’t for people raising funds and awareness in years gone by, then we may not have been so fortunate,” she said.
“It’s wonderful to think that what we’ve contributed over our time with Relay For Life, could make that same difference to other families in the future.”
In August this year, that contribution reached $100,000, which Lauren and her team are very proud of.
“When we started this journey, we never imagined that we could achieve something so great,” she said.
“We didn’t even have a goal for that first year, but at the closing ceremony of the event, we were informed that teams who managed to raise $5000 would have the honour of a research award being named for their team or loved one.
“We were sitting at $4600 so we got busy and managed to raise the extra funds in time for the banking cut-off date.
“Since then we have named a total of 16 research awards for research into breast cancer and low survival rate cancers.”
The Merry Marchers have come up with a number of innovative ways to fundraise and draw attention to the Relay For Life event.
People may remember ‘The Great Toilet Dump’ theme from 2015 in particular.
The concept was simple - they dumped a toilet on your lawn and you would pay to have it removed.
For $10 a team member would take it away, for $20 you could have it taken to a friend’s house or you could pay $30 for ‘toilet insurance’ which ensured it was never returned to you.
The fundraiser ran for 171 days, travelled 1337.8km, made 152 dumps and raised a total of $4300, contributing to one of the three research awards the Merry Marchers funded that year.
It also attracted national media attention and raised awareness for both Relay For Life and bowel and prostate cancer.
Asked why Lauren continues to be involved with Relay For Life, she said, “Relay can provide a sense of purpose for friends and family members who often feel quite helpless watching their loved one suffer.
“It’s important to support everyone involved and if we can have some fun doing it, then all the better.
“Teams are encouraged to dress up and decorate their tents for the Relay event, and even though some teams choose to have a different theme every year, our theme is always pirates.”
It’s not too late to say ‘ahoy matey’ and get involved with The Merry Marchers in this year’s Relay For Life event, which takes place at Wangaratta’s Merriwa Park on Saturday, October 19, from 12pm to 10pm.
◆ A FAMILY AFFAIR: Paxton, Lauren and Richard Kneebone are well aware of the importance of research for cancers and tumours.
◆ DUMP FOR GOOD: The Merry Marchers’ fundraising efforts for 2015 shone a light on bowel and prostate cancers in particular.