Thousands light candles of hope at Wexford Relay for Life
Thousands of people made their way to Páirc Charman at the weekend to support the annual 24-hour Relay for Life event in aid of the Irish Cancer Society.
An estimated 5,000 people attended the symbolic Candle of Hope ceremony which began at about 9.30 p.m. on Saturday night as dusk fell, with 4,000 candle bags lighting up the darkness.
Each candle was personally decorated and dedicated to the memory of people who have died from cancer, survived the illness or are currently undergoing treatment.
At the centre of the candle formation was an empty table set for one, representing the person who is no longer there.
Páirc Charman was transformed into a carnival village with marquees, tents, stalls and a stage centred around a walking track on which teams of participants walked in relay for 24 hours.
A total of 149 cancer survivors completed the first lap of the track and they were then joined by their family members and carers for the second lap in what Relay for Life chairperson Gay Murphy desribed as the emotional highlight of the event.
The participating survivors sat down to a celebratory lunch in a marquee, with all the food supplied by Pettitt's SuperValu in St. Aidan's and the meal catered by the Talbot Hotel.
This year, 962 Relay for Life teams registered to take part, with each team committing itself to raising funds in advance through sponsorship, selling candle bags and organising events, and having at least one member on the track continuously throughout 24-hours.
This is the fourth year of Wexford Relay for Life. The first event raised €20,000 for the Irish Cancer Society, followed by €55,000 in 2017 and €90,000 last year.
'It is a fundraiser but I don't focus on the money. I focus on the community aspect, the people of Wexford coming together. If we focus on the community, the money follows', said Ms. Murphy who became involved 'reluctantly' as organiser, following an approach by the Irish Cancer Society.
'I was very reluctant because I'm a hard worker and I was trying to recover from a breast cancer diagnosis and I thought, I'll end up pushing myself too hard and making myself sick'.
'But I'm so happy they came back to me a second time. I'm so happy that Wexford has this event. It's incredible what people are getting from it', said Gay who lost her mother to pancreatic cancer before Christmas last year.
'The people of Wexford have really, really rallied together in support of this event. I can't even explain to you how or why that has happened'.
Gay thanked everyone who contributed to the Relay including the army of volunteers, Pettitt's SuperValu St. Aidan's, the Talbot Hotel and O'Brien's Cafes which supplied all the food for an on-site fundraising cafe run by her own family under the name Murphy Power Cafe.
An announcement of this year's final fundraising figure will be made soon with a cheque hand-over to the Irish Cancer Society due to be held at a later date.