It was a march of camaraderie, of defiance, of protest, of remembrance, of support, raising over $100,000 for the Cancer Society.
Wairarapa’s Relay For Life over Saturday and Sunday at Clareville Showgrounds drew in 650 participants in 50 teams, with some teams boasting over 30 walkers and runners.
The flawless weather showcased the parade of survivors on Saturday afternoon, emblazoned with purple sashes, who marched forward to a rousing haka performed by students from Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Wairarapa.
Cancer survivor Shelley Paget, Carterton District Council, read the Relay’s oath, while Alix Cooper, who lost her husband Craig to cancer, lit the relay candle to mark the start of the event.
Teams dressed for the occasion, with costumed bears mixing with face paint and fluoro wigs, but as the night got cold blankets started being shared among the walkers.
As befitting the relay being held for the first time in Carterton District, the council boasted a sizeable team dressed in roading hi-vis vests, including mayor John Booth.
Mr Booth, in an opening speech, said he had lost “one of my best friends” to cancer and had pledged to participate through to the morning. He asked the teams, when it got dark during the night, to think of friends and “make some new friends”.
It was also a case of old friendships, with former Carterton mayor and NZ First list MP Ron Mark turning up for the night.
Neighbouring Carterton was the South Wairarapa District Council team, dressed in hillbilly costume, with possibly the most luridly lit tent.
Each team’s baton, with a transponder attached, automatically ticked over the lap score, as well as the best lap time.
While some teams were in a mildly competitive mood, at least to make the top 20, the battle was fierce between schools, with the Chanel College rugby boys and a team from visiting Tararua College spacing sprinters around the perimeter in true relay style.
At the finish Tararua College boasted the highest number of laps, at 544, and the fastest lap time of 1 minute and six seconds.
Most teams finished between 200 and 300 laps.
Cancer Society Wairarapa centre manager Jeanine Gribbin said they had reached $111,033 raised by Saturday afternoon and were expecting more.
“We got so much money on the night,” she said. “It was just a fantastic night, great support. I want to give a shout out to my awesome event team.”
She said the weather was perfect and people really enjoyed the new venue at Clareville.
The OathSurvivor Shelley Paget, who read the Relay oath on the weekend, said she always thought bowel cancer happened to “old people”.
She was in Australia six years ago and began feeling ill with an obstructed bowel.
A doctor checked her over and sent her home, but it persisted.
She checked into hospital and ended up having her appendix out.
“Then they finally figured out something was wrong, and took me seriously.
“They hadn’t worked with anyone my age that had bowel cancer.
“I had no family history.”
She said they told her she would probably not survive it.
“I thought, I don’t have any effects, how can they tell me I’m not going to beat it?
“So, challenge on.”
She has been in remission for six years.
“You’ve got two choices. You either take it as a challenge. Or you let it get you.”
She went through six rounds of chemotherapy and “a huge big operation” which removed half her bowel: “I was bungy jumping eight weeks after my first chemo.”