Why I Relay, Gill's story

01 Apr 2020

Hi, my name is Gillian and I am part of the Relay for Life Wexford Committee. I got involved in Relay at the very beginning because of the, by now famous, Gay Murphy. I knew her socially and she asked me to come along to a meeting. I had no clue what it was about but as you all know by now Gay is very persuasive and I was in.

At that first meeting I volunteered to do the minutes of the meetings, nothing more and that’s what I did, in fact that year 2016 I was actually away for Relay so I never even got to see the actual event. The second year I took on the role of co-chair for survivors with Shirley and thoroughly enjoyed Relay.
Even though I had lost my Mum to lung cancer in 2002 it never really registered with me that she was part of all this, that is until the Candle Bag Ceremony in year 2. I linked up with my daughter and as we walked the track and got close to my Mum’s candle bag, I could feel the emotion rising in me; we held hands as we walked and hugged each other. It was a moment I will never forget...it felt like we were the only two people on that field, when in fact there were thousands of people all remembering their loved ones. No words were necessary and we were all united with our family members just by being present on that field.
In years three and four I moved on to work on stage and entertainment which was another new challenge and again I loved it.
As you know fundraising for the ICS is the primary focus of the event, however, my personal primary focus is Community. I continue to Relay because of the community aspect of our event. In my working life I train community workers, a job which I am passionate about and in which I feel I make a contribution to society. So Relay for me is primarily a community event and as a committee we largely work from the principles and values of Community Development, empowerment, equality, social inclusion, participation, consultation and collective action for social change.
In my view Relay works on many levels. Firstly the Committee - as a group we have changed and grown every year, facing new challenges and learning all the time, under Gay’s leadership. I personally have built relationships with the Committee and wider Relay family and continue to do so. I feel I am involved in something much greater than the sum of its parts. I have certainly done things that I would have only previously dreamed of, like being on the stage and talking to over 5,000 people, amazing! I know I and other committee members get a real sense of belonging from Relay. Being on the committee is not easy, it is hard work and requires great dedication, but it is so rewarding. Wexford Relay for Life has very high standards under the leadership of Gay and she expects and gets the best out of all of us. Secondly the Survivors who walk the track as a group at the beginning of our event. This is wonderful because it shows the rest of us that we can beat cancer and continue to enjoy life. Instead of being isolated in their struggle, people come together and form relationships with each other, stories are shared and a special bond forms, people no longer feel alone fighting this dreaded disease, but become united and part of something bigger.
This year we will have over 50 teams taking part in our event with more than 700 people participating on those teams...but as you know each team brings along with them family and friends and gets them involved also. In a way each team becomes their own mini community, it is like a spiders web spreading out and including more and more people, having fun, raising money for essential services and building relationships.
Then we have the wider community of the volunteers and helpers who get involved beforehand or at the event itself. Many many people give freely of their time to support Relay and we are often blown away by the generosity of individuals and local businesses who never refuse to get involved in some way, however big or small.
Finally at the event itself we have upwards of 5,000 people, enjoying not just an afternoon but a whole weekend of fun, laughter, conversation, camaraderie and community, all done I might add without the aid of alcohol. It is a beauty to behold to see so many people, and especially children, experience real enjoyment, freedom and in my opinion oftentimes spiritual experiences whilst at Relay. The positive stories we hear are endless.
Having said all that, the main event for me and for many others I suspect, is the Candle of Hope Ceremony on Saturday night, which I mentioned earlier. Last year I was on the stage and witnessed the ceremony looking down at 5,000 people or more...the ceremony itself was beautiful but I will never forget the three silent laps that took place, you could hear a pin drop and that sight moved me to tears...it was magical and I personally believe that every person that was represented by a candle bag was present with us on that field at that moment. Incredible!
I am honoured to be involved in Relay, honoured to work with the Committee who are so dedicated and honoured to be part of something that I feel enhances the lives of so many people in Wexford, not just at Relay but for much of the year. If you have not yet experienced Relay, I can’t urge you enough to get involved in whatever way you can and feel that community spirit that I love so much.
Gillian Wild
April 2020