12 hours done!
So Team Civil Crusaders has just completed the first 12hrs of the Wexford Relay for Life! I've sneaked home after 2am for a few hours sleep before heading back over in the morning, leaving some dedicated colleagues to cover the late night/ early morning shift. So what can we say about our 1st Relay for Life experience?
Incredible. Inspiring. Emotional. Up-lifting. Positive. Celebration. FUN!
It's been an amazing day. We walked, talked, laughed, cried and drank tea, lots of tea! Nothing could have prepared us for that heart-swelling lump of emotion and pride at seeing our survivors march out that first lap; such strong, determined, wonderful people, true inspirations to us all.
The atmosphere was electric, all day. There was no tiredness or weariness, despite the heat and the hours on our feet; we were just carried along on a wave of pure energy.
We sold raffle tickets, lots of raffle tickets! We painted loads of happy faces (with huge thanks to Jordan) and sold out our sticker board game! Team members who were just rostered for an hour or two to help out stayed all day; they wouldn't go home!
We knew, in theory, what was coming at dusk and lots of us who had popped home went back in for that event again. Little did we know though just what it was that we were going to witness. The candle bag ceremony that came after daylight faded, after 10pm, was beyond anything that can be described with mere words.
Teams lit thousands of candle bags, all decorated by friends and family, and we silently paraded behind the candle of hope, thousands of us, to give thanks for the wonderful survivors and for those much adored loved ones who lost their lives to this horrible disease. It was hard for some of us but it felt so important, essential that we were there to give thanks.
The choirs, singers, readers and musicians were so so good. But, what struck us most about those first couple of laps after the ceremony was the silence. How can a crowd of thousands make no noise? People lost in their own thoughts, moving as one collective, bound together by common experiences, full of love. It was a truly beautiful moment.
The field emptied out a bit for the night shift but those of us staying on kept up our steady pace for our alloted time slot, walking probably 3 or 4 kilometers in our hour, chatting amicably to our fellow strollers. Trudy, our guide dog colleague, kept pace with us too!
On one side of the pitch, bingo was underway at 11.30pm, two little ducks coming ahead of the key to the door and the two fat ladies! On another side, a giant screen started showing The Greatest Showman at 12.30am! The Soul Mates Team kept everyone going with their tea and toast and cakes for the night but some of us were tempted by the hot, salty chips in a little carton, evoking memories of seaside trips as children; is there anything better?!
Conversations in the Civil Crusaders tent during the first half of the day generally started with, "next year we will..." So, I guess that's a fair indication of how much people enjoyed themselves!
So, now, a few hours sleep and then off to do it all again tomorrow. "Anyone for the last few raffle tickets there folks?!"