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Community's Relay for Life signals hope and remembrance

Photos by Johnny Bugeja and Eyleen Gomez

Nearly £60,000 and counting was raised for Cancer Research UK by the Relay For Life Gibraltar, a 24-hour event held last weekend at Lathbury Stadium.

Hundreds of people covered thousands of kilometres as they walked a seemingly endless loop of 400m around a track, raising both awareness and money in the process.

The relay started off with the traditional survivor walk, where those who have won the battle with cancer wear a purple t-shirt emblazoned with the word ‘survivor’ as they take the honour of the first lap. In doing so, all other participants and supporters lined the track to applaud them as they passed.

The walk was both poignant and moving, with many participants wiping away a tear or embracing friends and family, each with their own thoughts of either those who have won the battle, lost the battle or are currently facing it.

Once the survivors completed their lap, walkers and runners from the various teams took to the track to continue the relay.

Just after 10pm the Candle of Hope ceremony was held.

Here bags written with messages to loved ones were placed around the track and on the stadium seats spelling out the words HOPE and LIFE.

A battery-operated candle flickered as the lights in the stadium were turned off and Amazing Grace was played on the bagpipes.

Tears streamed down the faces of a number of people, especially as a poem that reflects on the significance of a small table that occupied a place of dignity and honour during the event.

Set for one, it symbolised the fact that some loved ones are missing and some have been diagnosed with cancer, focusing attention on the powerful message underpinning the event.

Over 50 teams consisting of businesses, charities, families, organisations, running clubs and friends took part in the event.

One business, Bassadone, had two very special participants, Peter Bering and Ian Martinez.

Both completed the 24 hours non-stop.

Mr Bering ran or walked the entire 24 hours and managed to cover 159km, a distance just further than Gibraltar to Seville.

Mr Martinez walked the 24 hours and completed 109km, a distance just further than Gibraltar to Malaga.

Linzi Moffat was one of the participants from Hassans. She originally registered with the thoughts of completing a few hours on the track. However, on the day she decided she would give it her all and walk for the whole 24 hours. In doing so she covered over 100km.

Charmaine Romero from Bosum Buddies, is a two times breast cancer survivor, a lover of walking who decided to take on the 24-hour challenge too. In doing so she also walked over 100km.

These people are just a small snippet of those who took part.

Some walked with a cane, others were pushed in a wheelchair or were carried on the shoulders of their parents.

While the relay took place, the location of Lathbury Stadium with a football pitch in the middle meant children were not bored and some played football until the very early hours of Sunday morning.

To keep the participants upbeat, there were performances by local dance groups and the band Jesse Tree, while Base Training gave a free Zumba class and BollyGib gave a free Bollywood Fitness class.

During the closing ceremony expressions of gratitude were extended to all those who contributed to the event's success.

Survivors, participants, volunteers, spectators, team leaders, and supportive sponsors were acknowledged.

There were special thanks to the Cancer Research UK Gibraltar branch and various organisations that lent their assistance, as well as the hardworking and dedicated members of the organising committee.

Trudy Stammer, Head of Fundraising at Cancer Research UK, addressed the audience and expressed her heartfelt appreciation for their commitment, passion, and support.

She commended the Gibraltar community for its extraordinary dedication over the years, noting that their efforts had helped to nearly eradicate cervical cancer through the implementation of the HPV vaccine.

The community's contributions over many years had also facilitated the development of over 50 cancer drugs, pioneered immunotherapy and personalised medicine, and made significant advancements in targeted treatments for various forms of cancer.

“This is the seventh Relay for Life Gibraltar. And together we did a quick calculation and we think in that time you've raised well over £300,000,” she said.

“Thank you so much to everyone who's been part of that. I absolutely salute you and thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

“We always say you don't have to wear a lab coat to beat cancer. And this community has certainly shown that.”

“It proves that ordinary people can make an extraordinary impact.”

“Relay is about three things. Celebrating those who have beaten cancer, remembering those who've sadly lost to cancer and fighting back to beat cancer and with your community spirit you certainly done that this weekend,” she added.

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