Border embraces relay

ORGANISERS of the Border Relay for Life are astounded at the level of interest in this year’s event, even before it has begun.

The annual cancer fund-raiser is not officially launched until tomorrow but already it has attracted 55 teams — double the number of registrations compared with this time last year.

“Some of these teams have been signed up since the day after the last event finished in October,” volunteer committee chairman Carl Friedlieb said.

“It’s extremely impressive because it shows that people aren’t considering it at the last minute, they’re marking it in their calendars as an annual event.”

Mr Friedlieb said the level of interest was exciting but not surprising, given the level of support and commitment the Border community had shown to the cause.

Albury-Wodonga last year blasted all previous fund-raising tallies.

It attracted 2300 people who collected donations to the tune of $368,000 from the community.

The twin cities was the third-highest fund-raiser in NSW, surpassed only by the Illawarra and Sutherland regions.

Unbeknown to many, the Relay for Life has a strong following worldwide.

It started in 1985 when a US colrectal surgeon, Dr Gordy Klatt, was so desperate for funds to support the patients of his cancer society, he spent 24 gruelling hours circling a track in Tacoma, Washington, to raise $27,000 for the cause.

Almost 30 years later, the event is celebrated in 600 communities in 21 countries across the world.

Anne Hayward, one of the founders of the Border event, said it had come a long way from the first celebration held at the Albury trotting track in 2002.

Back then, half of the 400 people who took part went home for the night, leaving the grounds empty. The track was so dusty several people went home with asthma and the fund-raising tally hit just $6500.

“You used to ask around for sponsorship and everyone thought individuals walked the whole 24 hours straight, that you raised all your money that weekend and that everybody was searching for donations per lap you completed,” she said.

“Now businesses are much more aware of the fund-raising that happens beforehand, they see the profile it is getting in the community and they really want to give something back.”

All the money raised from the Relay for Life goes directly to the Cancer Council NSW and Mr Friedlieb thought this was why it was such a popular event.

He said cancer was so rife in Australia that every family or person in the community had been touched by the disease.

The fact that the relay had such a fun, carnival-like atmosphere, combined with the money going back into their community, makes it a most worthwhile cause to support.

“We’re in some pretty tough times but last year’s record fund-raising tally showed that the Border community is always willing to give,” he said.

“Last year the NSW Cancer Council donated $300,000 towards building an accommodation centre for cancer patients here on the Border.

“We’re hoping that becomes a bricks-and-mortar example of where our fund-raising dollars from the Relay for Life and other cancer fund-raising events can go.”

The Border relay has set a minimum fund-raising target of $260,000 for this year.

It is inviting all Border residents interested in participating to attend one of the launch events in Albury and Wodonga tomorrow.