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Students band together at Relay For Life

Cancer is a cause close to the hearts of many people at Montmorency Secondary College.

That’s why their passion to fight for a cancer-free future has become a whole school effort.

Students, staff and parents at Montmorency have been taking part in Relay For Life for nine years and have raised more than $78,000 in that time.

Every year, between 200 and 300 people join their team as part of the wider Diamond Valley event.

Teacher Kim Faulkner, who organises the school’s participation said it means a lot to students and the wider school community.

“It’s a local community event, it’s something we support so obviously as most schools have we’ve been affected by cancer, former students, staff and a lot of parents,” she said.

“The kids are very passionate about it, they love the event and the passion and enthusiasm for it has just grown. They love making a difference, they love the community feel of it. We imagine we’ll be involved for a long time.”

The entire student body from year 7 to 12 are involved in the planning and organising of events around the Relay.

“We made all the paper cut-outs that they now display all round the park to represent the number of people diagnosed with cancer each year in our local area. They’ve been involved with selling merchandise and the registration desk, they’ve run some of the activities at the event,” Kim said. “They’ve done fundraising activities at the event but we’ve also done a significant number of fundraising events here at the college as well. We’ve raised something like $78,000 over the years we’ve been involved.”

The achievements of Montmorency Secondary College have seen the school win a number of accolades for their efforts.

“We won the Alexander Jones Spirit of Relay, we’ve been the highest fundraiser, which was a lovely award to receive because the kids are driven by trying to make a difference.”

Kim said the event was also an educational opportunity, with school assemblies being used to convey information on how the money raised is used to help people living with cancer. Students also learn about research and how to reduce the risk of cancer through prevention tips.

But it is the personal stories that make Relay For Life such an important event in the school calendar. 

“One of our senior leaders who organised the event last year, his Mum passed away from cancer the end of last year so we’ve named the research award in her memory. He was really passionate about that charity. There have been some other tragedies that have happened at the college that Relay for Life has become a symbol for that for our school community.”

The highlight of Relay For Life is the candlelight ceremony, which is a moving event for all involved.

“It gives our community a chance to remember and in a way grieve together. It’s very powerful. It’s very moving and emotional. We’ve had so many students who have lost family members to cancer and that is a really moving event. The rest of it is so uplifting and positive and the students come away feeling they’ve made a difference, they’ve been part of their community, part of something bigger than themselves. The success that they feel having raised money either for prevention of cancer or to help people living with cancer, is quite powerful.”

The event attracts supporters from across the area including former students, parents, friends of students, people from the wider community.

“The sense of community when you’re involved in Relay, our team is enormous, but just everyone is there for the same reason, passionate about it, enthusiastic, fun, at times it brings a lot of laughs. It’s just a great, all-round event.” 

Kim said she would encourage anyone who has been touched by cancer to consider getting involved with Relay For Life.

“You definitely wouldn’t regret being involved, it’s a fabulous event. You come away with this incredible feeling of community and teamwork, it’s inspiring, every year you just want to come back again.”

“It’s amazing, we have staff who stay overnight and I come back at 4 or 5 in the morning to relieve them and there are still kids on that track and they’re still walking. I remember saying to them, you must be tired and they said , ‘Well, I might have tired legs but I don’t have cancer,’ so I think they get a bit of a sense of what the real world is like.”

Her hope for future events is that they contribute to the fight against cancer.

“Wouldn’t it be good to live in a world where there was no cancer? Our money went to a specific research grant, I hope those researchers are successful and I hope they can find cures for this dreadful disease and reduce the suffering of people who have cancer. I don’t want to go to the funeral of anyone else who’s died of cancer.”

Do you want to give back to your community and help others? Find your local Relay For Life event and register today!