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Islanders rally behind record breaking Relay for Life

A RECORD £158,000 plus has been raised at the UK’s largest ever Relay for Life fund raising event, held in Shetland over the weekend.

The 12 hour overnight event at the Clickimin running track, in Lerwick, organised by Cancer Research UK, attracted more than 1,900 participants, almost 10 per cent of the islands’ population.

Among them were around 120 cancer survivors of all ages, celebrating the fact that they had beaten a disease that affects almost every family and cuts short so many lives.

Retired businessman John Tait, from Scalloway, lost his wife Charlotte to stomach cancer 17 years ago. Then, in 2008, he had his right leg amputated after a cancerous tumour was discovered in his thigh.

Speaking about how cancer has changed his outlook on life, the 71 year old said he had been keen to support the local event.

“You feel the rest of your life is here for living, you don’t take everything for granted anymore and you appreciate things a wee bit more after you have been through this,” he said.

He added that the Shetland community had “a tremendous spirit of togetherness” which was again proven by the number of people turning out for the Shetland Relay for Life, on Saturday evening.

Following an initial round completed by everybody and led by the many survivors, the idea of the fundraising event is to have at least one member of the 133 teams participating walking on the running track at any one time during the night long relay.

There were also plenty of opportunities for reflecting on the many friends and family that had lost the battle against cancer, such as the hundreds of candles in decorated bags lit in memory of those who have died.

Chairwoman of the local organising committee, Olive MacLeod said she and her team have been working since October last year to get everything ready for the night.

She added: “I think this has caught the imagination of the community because Shetland is a small place. People know each other and they want to help each other. If somebody gets cancer then a lot of people know about it – and that is why there are so many people here tonight.

“The amount of support we have received over the previous months was just fantastic and I am sure that at the end of the night we are going to have a wonderful overall total to contribute to cancer research.”

By Sunday morning almost £160,000 had been raised, but this amount is likely to grow further over coming weeks with the final total not being announced before the end of June.

Cancer Research UK’ relay organiser for Scotland, Louise Robertson said that in 2009 the national charity had contributed a staggering £355million to research projects and the provision of doctors and nurses throughout the UK.

“Relay for Life is a community event and this is the biggest Relay for Life that has ever happened in the UK. I am speechless with the number of people who are here tonight – over 1,900.

“The money that they are raising makes such a difference to people’s lives. It is just fantastic to see the 117 survivors here tonight showing a vision of hope for everybody.

“The community has absolutely to be applauded. In the last months I have run out of words from amazing, to unbelievable to overwhelming. It really is inspiring,” she said.

Depending on his crutches to get around John Tait was determined to also complete a full round on the track at Clickimin, on Saturday night.

Afterwards he said: “This is very moving, very emotional. There is some sadness, obviously, but there should be a lot of happiness too. Hope I suppose is the word we should be looking at tonight.

“Look at all these candles which all represent someone who has passed away through cancer. It is a very moving occasion.”

The next Shetland Relay for Life will be held in 2012.