On the 7th and 8th of March 2009 the Cancer Society held the Relay for Life in sunny Napier.
Just over a week prior, volunteer Fire Fighters from Napier station were told about it, and rapidly set to work fund raising and getting ready to participate. The weekend of the Mission Concert (weekend before the relay) was spent avoiding the rain on Saturday and seeking the shade on Sunday to do a sausage sizzle which went better than expected.
By the morning of the 7th, the hastily formed “Firewise Guys” headed down to Tareha Reserve in Taradale and setup camp. We had the big Fire Service marquee and the last minute delivery of the new Flint and Amber costumes.
The opening ceremony was around 12 noon, with cancer survivors doing the first lap closely followed by the numerous other teams that had turned out to support the cause. This was the start of 24 hours of non-stop walking, and of the music and bands to keep us entertained.
Initially we got bagged about looking strange in our assortment of Fire Service uniform, with everything from blues, to level one’s, two’s, BA and a couple in the oversized heads and red capes of Flint and Amber. This all changed during the afternoon when the rain moved in and started bucketing down. Everyone was getting soaked while Rodney and myself walked around the track in our level two’s like it was a perfectly fine day. Then the comments turned to compliments on being so well prepared and the like.
The rain cleared after dumping down just enough to ensure that the track turned into one big mudslide (with no small amount of help from some of the kids in the area) and to short out the power to pretty much everything including the lighting towers. This meant that as dark started to fall they couldn’t fire the lights up making for some rather uncertain and questionable footing until they were repaired well into the evening.
In the mean time, a memorial ceremony was held including lighting of candles that were set to line the edges of the walking track. There was also a special performance by Yulia, a singer who was a big supporter of the Cancer Society and who performed for cancer sufferers from time to time.
The bands kicked off again and the walking continued. Some teams changed shifts, others just geared up for a long night.
The stretch heading towards midnight cooled off a lot and the laps seemed longer each time around, but heading towards midnight I started getting harassed by a bunch of girls (who one of the other guys had been hassled by earlier and had warned me about them!), but all in good humour. Shouts of “show us your hose” and similar statements flew each time past their camp. Who would believe this from a bunch of teachers!! =P A few rounds after the banter began I joined on the track by a couple of lovely young ladies from their team, and arm in arm we passed by the camp just to stir even more.
The clowns from the CHB Circus also provided much amusement with whistles and horns everytime we walked past.
In the early hours of the morning after the music and the movies that were screened were over, some light music drifted on the wind and the mischief escalated. Theft of food condiments and drink driving of a wheelie bin were both in order, along with various other shenanigans that we shan’t go into.
As the sun started to rise and everyone started to turn up again we continued to plod along the well warn path. Stiff muscles struggled in the early morning chill and those that had managed to get some sleep were poked awake to take over the laps.
With the sun and warmth came renewed energy and I grabbed the camera to go take a few shots of the various teams that were there. I also struggled over to the Village Kids and got a group pic of them; they were most obliging and full of smiles, and disturbingly awake given the hour!
As 11:30 rolled around all the teams piled onto the track for the final half hour, banners in tow. When 12 noon finally hit we all packed down towards the stage while the winners of raffles and most laps, fastest lap, best costumes etc were announced. The closing ceremony was finished off with the releasing of doves.
That just left packing up all our gear and clearing out!
By the time I got home I was absolutely stuffed. After no sleep I was tired and sore and soon after crashed out on the couch for a couple of hours. But being trashed aside, it was an awesome weekend and now we’re more aware of it we’ll be entering a team in again next year.
A big congrats to everyone who participated or sponsored or donated. It is a great cause. At the end of the weekend the raised funds totalled about $240,000.
And also cheers to the Pink Ladies for providing many laughs, much entertainment and for keeping us awake and motivated through the night.
And here ends my tired disjointed rambling, hopefully my memory isn’t too atrocious. More photos on facebook for those who are interested. =]