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Seventh Relay for Life raises cancer funds and awareness
A 24-hour non-stop relay organised by the international community of Belgium this weekend raised more than €80,000 for cancer research, prevention and treatment.
Relay for Life was brought to Belgium from the US in 2011 and has now grown to 26 different chapters around the country. The seventh annual event took place at St John’s International School in Waterloo. The charity fundraiser is aimed at spreading awareness, showing support and raising money for cancer research.
“Cancer never sleeps and neither do we in the fight against it,” said co-chair Rebecca Barry. Relay is comprised of several teams who work together during the event to get donations either from selling baked goods, offering manicures and walking laps around the track on the field of the school where the event takes place.
This year more than 600 people signed up for the event, spread across over two dozen different teams. Organisers for the event anticipated more than 1,000 people attending the event over the full 24 hours.
On Saturday at 14.00, the 24-hour-long mission began with an initial lap around the track walked exclusively by cancer survivors. Among them was committee member, Cindy Menache.
“I love the whole aspect of Relay. I live Relay, I breathe Relay,” Menache said. She has been with Relay for Life since it first came to Belgium and has spent this year’s event working specifically with survivors.
At the event, there is a “survivors lounge,” a place where those who have won their battle can go for free food, drinks, massages and even doctor discussion groups.
“It’s an amazing opportunity for survivors to come together, to not feel alone in their battle or not feel alone in the suffering that they’ve had or the hardships that they’ve had psychologically,” Menache said.
Menache and her team wanted to give survivors a VIP treatment and completely transformed the school’s cafeteria into a gorgeous lounge with plush chairs and couches, food, massages complete with aromatic lotions and raffle prizes. The lounge opened with a heartfelt toast from one survivor to another.
“It is an occasion to celebrate you, celebrate us, celebrate everyone and celebrate more birthdays,” said Menache with a champagne flute raised high.
Barry is a teacher at another international school in Waterloo but was presented with an opportunity to participate in last year’s event. Originally going with the intention to stay for a few hours, she ended up spending the full 24 hours. She said it was the connections she made that made her so passionate about the event.
“I found that I was about to make connections with people in a way that wasn’t possible in the normal school year,” Barry said. “So I was very moved by both the fun and exacting sides of relay, as well as the more reflective sides.”
Barry said being a part of an international community is what makes this specific Relay so special.
“Cancer effects everyone. There is not a single community that is not touched by this,” she said. “I think Relay for Life makes a great international event because it highlights the similarities and connections between different groups of people.”