Donegal people are being invited to show their support for those affected by cancer at Relay For Life Donegal as it celebrates its 10th anniversary this weekend.
Marking this important milestone, the fundraising event takes place at ATU Donegal Letterkenny Campus on May 28-29, with Relay For Life Donegal Patron Daniel O’Donnell joining the celebrations.
The unique 24-hour gathering brings communities together for the first time since 2019 to celebrate the lives of cancer survivors, remember those lost to the disease and raise funds for vital research and services of the Irish Cancer Society.
During the event, Relay teams walk the track during the 24 hours, with entertainment and activities also taking place. On Saturday May 28, registration is open from 3.30pm followed by live music from local artist Callum Keaveny. The event officially opens at 5pm with the Survivors’ Lap.
This year Majella O’Donnell joins survivors, as her husband and Relay For Life Donegal Patron Daniel takes his place on the track among the carers. After more live music, the event quietens down around 10pm for the evocative Luminaria Ceremony, featuring Highland Radio presenter Donal Kavanagh and The Survivors Choir.
Thousands will gather for this special ceremony, which will see people walking silently around the track, stopping by candles to remember their loved ones no longer with us or in celebration of those living with cancer. On Sunday May 29, Highland Radio broadcasts from the grounds between 8am and 12pm, featuring gospel music and an ecumenical service where survivors share their stories. Sunday wraps up with more entertainment and patron Daniel closes the event.
Monies raised at Relay for Life Donegal over the past 10 years have enabled The Irish Cancer Society to provide vital services to the people of Donegal, to introduce new programmes and to invest in life changing research projects.
During the last decade, the Irish Cancer Society has established a Daffodil Centre in Letterkenny University Hospital, which has seen cancer nurses and trained volunteers dealing with over 15,854 enquiries since the Centre opened in September 2013. A number of new services can be accessed through the Daffodil Centre in Letterkenny, including virtual counselling and online patient education programmes such as chemotherapy education and LACES (Life and Cancer – Enhancing Survivorship).
Irish Cancer Society funding also facilitated a Bowel Cancer Screening Promotion programme in Donegal in 2018. Over 59 events promoting screening and registering people for the BowelScreen programme took place throughout the county, with a total of 22,272 people attending these events.
Life changing research supported by the Irish Cancer Society in Donegal includes newly developed survivorship programme Moving On, which has a funding commitment of €76,820. Another project looking at the provision of oral chemotherapy in a community-based primary care setting, and led by Dr Janice Richmond in collaboration with the National University of Ireland Galway, received Irish Cancer Society funding of €158,324.
Since 2012, the Irish Cancer Society has also provided 1,832 nights of in-home Night Nursing for Donegal patients in their final days, its Volunteer Driver Service safely facilitated the transport of 212 patients travelling to and from 4,134 hospital appointments, and 1,007 contacts in Donegal were helped by the Support Line. During 2021, while the pandemic was ongoing, 197 counselling sessions were provided in Donegal through the Irish Cancer Society’s remote counselling service and affiliated cancer support centres.
Throughout the years, Relay For Life Donegal has promoted education and awareness in schools, with many schools entering teams in the event. A schools project, the Education and Awareness Programme is available on the website (donegalrelayforlife.com) and gives students the opportunity to educate themselves and others about cancer prevention. In 2016, with the support of Loreto Letterkenny and Mulroy College Milford, the Relay Committee introduced a new module for schools to participate in, which is organised under the headings of Research, Awareness and Fundraising. Another new initiative called ‘1for1@1’ encourages schools to do one activity at 1 o’clock and collect one euro per family, introducing young children to the topic of cancer using a fun approach.
In addition to organising the Relay weekend, the Committee keeps the Relay ethos alive throughout the year by inviting children who have had cancer and their families to Oakfield Park every December where they visit Santa Claus, receive a gift and are treated to a meal afterwards.
Furthermore, since 2014, the committee have organised a Regional Cancer Conference in The Mount Errigal Hotel every second year, where a wealth of speakers update attendees on cancer-related issues, treatments, services and research.
Robert O’Connor, Chairperson of Relay For Life Donegal, said: “I would like to thank the people of Donegal and further afield who have supported Relay For Life Donegal over the past 10 years raising funds and enabling The Irish Cancer Society to provide their invaluable services here in the county and to invest in life saving research projects. It is incumbent on me to acknowledge all our survivors, caregivers and teams who are at the heart of Celebrating, Remembering and Fighting Back, they have become a vital part of the Relay For Life Donegal family. This event could not take place without all the committee members and volunteers who have given freely of their time and commitment down through the years, all of which we very much appreciate. We are looking forward to an amazing weekend of reunion, fun celebrations and memories. Go raibh míle maith agaibh uilig.”
Averil Power, Irish Cancer Society CEO, said: “Since the first event in 2012, Donegal has enthusiastically gotten behind the Relay For Life concept, and by doing so have generously supported the work of The Irish Cancer Society in helping to both promote and fund crucial cancer services and research. The dedication and commitment of all involved in this event is an inspiration to us all and we look forward to seeing Donegal people coming together for this special event.”