WET and windy weather failed to dampen the spirits of the thousands of people who took part in Relay for Life in Letterkenny over the weekend.
Huge numbers of people assembled in the grounds of Letterkenny Institute of Technology to participate in the 24-hour fundraiser for the Irish Cancer Society and to support those who are currently facing the illness and subsequent treatment, those who have survived, and those who lost their lives to cancer.
Up to 3,000 had taken part over the weekend and attended the closing ceremony yesterday evening. An emotional Majella O’Donnell joined her husband Daniel on stage. She told the thousands assembled that she hoped next year’s Relay for Life would be even bigger and better. She also said there were hundreds of cancer sufferers who would be glad of the opportunity to get out of their beds and walk in the rain.
Speaking to the Donegal News, one of the main organisers, Mr Robert O’Connor said that the fourth annual Relay for Life was another successful one. He said that as of yesterday evening, a total of €71,000 had been raised, with a final amount expected to be confirmed next month.
“That is a significant amount of money but it won’t end there. We have said from the start that this year’s event was about raising awareness and education and that has been our focus.”
“Our numbers were down this year and the weather hasn’t been kind to us at all, but to see that 36 families wanted to put teams forward this year is great. Although we lost four gazebos which were blown away by the wind, it hasn’t dampened the spirits of the participants.”
He added: “Majella O’Donnell urged us to keep going with Relay for Life and I can confirm now that there will be an event in 2016.”
For the first time this year the entire Relay for Life event was streamed live online and Mr O’Connor said it has been viewed by people all over the world.
“At the last count, there were people in 17 different countries who had logged-in to watch the event. It is great to see that support from our own people who aren’t able to attend in person.”
Another first was the hosting of a major conference to co-incide with the event. Speakers included Sinead Burke, Assistant Research Officer with the Irish Cancer Society, Dr Tara McFadden from Randox Laboratories in Dungloe speaking about the importance of early diagnosis. Also Dr Sudipto Das from UCD gave a talk on colorectal cancer while local fitness coach Emmet Rushe spoke on the positive impact of physical activity on a cancer diagnosis.
Another highlight of this year’s relay for life was the donation of 22 ponytails to the Little Princess Trust to make wigs for children suffering from cancer.
“Our Global Hero for Hope Siubhan Gillespie had seven inches cut off her hair and was joined by 21 other people, young and old, who had been growing their hair to donate ponytails.”
While the focus of the event was a walking relay involving 37 teams this year, it is that and much more with top acts from the world of entertainment helping to generate a non-stop parade of music and dancing.
The opening ceremony took place Saturday evening, comprising the Survivors Choir, before the event got underway with the opening lap at 6pm involving the caregivers and the team parade.
Other performers included the Gateway Singers, Robert Mizell backed by Brian Kerrigan, Declan Nerney backed by Off the Kuff, Eamonn Jackson, Jim Devine, David McNamee, Jacqui Sharkey, and El Dorado.
In Their Thousands, young Keelan Arbuckle and Callum Keaveney as well as Moya Brennan and family also performed at the event.
One of the most emotional aspects of the weekend was the Luminaria Ceremony featuring the Survivors Choir and a candlelit parade honouring those who have fought and survived cancer, those who lost that fight, and those for whom the fight continues.
See Monday’s Donegal News for full coverage and pictures of Relay for Life