Relay for Life 2021 - Remarkable Together

By Amy Lawrence

Running. Walking. Hobbling. That is what a group of staff and senior students from Otamatea High School spent their weekend doing during an 18 hour relay to support the Cancer Society on the 20th to the 21st of March 2021.

On the morning of Relay for Life, our team, ‘OTA Kids’ had raised $10,577 with donations still being raised. These funds contributed to the total of over $109,000 recorded on the Sunday morning, which will support Northland’s Cancer Society funding and research. 

Well done Billie Le Mesurier-Cowbourne, and Michael Ferguson for achieving greater than 120 laps each and a special congratulations to Cory Browne for completing the most laps in our team, which was 135+ laps (54+km).

There are many things we will never forget about this amazing and emotional experience: The look of embarrassment on the faces of the Whangarei Boys High School team when they lost the ‘Tug of War’ to Whangarei Girls; the rope snapping right in the center when the last two teams were tugging for the win; the sense of pride whilst performing our school’s haka as a team as survivors crossed the finish line, and seeing teachers, friends and family amongst this group of people who have experienced cancer first hand. We’ll remember the laughter we shared as we danced around the track to live music, and the moments of silence and quiet tears during the candle light ceremony.

The remembrance lap was particularly emotional. We had each decorated a candle bag in honor of loved ones lost and placed them around the track. We held our springs of rosemary and lit the sky with our torches in their memory. It became so raw and clear of how many lives have been affected by this horrible disease. As we walked in the early hours of the morning the candle bags lit the way, and we were reminded of why we kept walking even when our muscles and blisters told us to stop. So many have been lost in our small Northland community. We relayed in hope of a cure and in support of those who are fighting against cancer every minute. 

The weather was on our side. The sun warmed us as it began to set and we continued to walk under the stars. The rain drops we did receive were beautiful under the stadium lights, the stars and the moon being as bright as ever. We were still walking (some hobbling) when the sun rose on Sunday morning. 

After losing the opportunity to Relay last year we knew we had to be a strong and dedicated team. Many thanks go to Gretchen Dainty, Nikki Donaldson, Dirk Smyth, and David Burnell for their commitment to, and for the organisation of our team. We set ambitious goals and we as a team worked together to succeed, holding many fundraisers throughout the community over the course of three weeks before the event. A big thank you to the school for the mufti day and all the money that was donated by students and staff. Many thanks to all the businesses that sponsored our fundraisers. 

I am so proud to lead and be a part of such an amazing team. I wish our team the greatest luck for next year's Northland Relay for Life on the 1st of April 2022.