Re­lay full of re­wards

Ovens & Murray Advertiser - North East Regional Extra - - Front Page - By BELINDA HARRISON

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.

PHOTO: Mel Guy

◆ A FAM­ILY AF­FAIR: Pax­ton, Lau­ren and Richard Knee­bone are well aware of the im­por­tance of re­search for can­cers and tu­mours.

PHOTO: Lau­ren Knee­bone

◆ DUMP FOR GOOD: The Merry Marchers’ fundrais­ing ef­forts for 2015 shone a light on bowel and prostate can­cers in par­tic­u­lar.

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