Wonder Woman Walsh sets sights on Sunderland!

British Empire Medal recipient and fundraising queen, Ann Walsh, is looking to Sunderland for Cancer Research Relay For Life participants.

Ann Walsh receiving British Empire Medal

Ann Walsh, organiser of the Jarrow Relay for Life, is looking to recruit teams from Sunderland in order to raise her dream target of £1,000,000 for Cancer Research UK. Talking about how she first became involved in fundraising for Cancer Research, Ann said: “I initially became involved with UK cancer charities after the death of a close friend from ovarian cancer. The diagnosis of my dad’s lung cancer in 2005 motivated me to take part in the 2006 Race For Life in his honour.

Not long after my dad died, I was approached by a friend who worked for Cancer Research UK. She thought I would be the ideal person to organise my own Relay For Life event due to my extensive contacts within the community, and also because of my own personal experience with the disease amongst family and friends.”

After visiting a relay in Easingwold near York, Ann was inspired to start her own in Jarrow. “I was hooked!” said Ann “I knew I could do bigger and better, so that’s just what I did”. The first Jarrow Relay For Life took place in 2007, just three months after Ann lost her father to lung cancer, and raised £20,000.

Since then, the Jarrow Relay For Life has gone from strength to strength; to date it has raised close to £600,000 in total.

Talking about the format of the relay, Ann continued: “Teams sign up to take part in the relay and fundraise all year. On the day of the 24-hour Relay For Life event, all teams, cancer survivors, carers and volunteers come together to celebrate their fundraising achievements and remember those affected by cancer. Team members set up camp in Monkton Stadium and take turns to walk around the track throughout the day and night. It’s a great community celebration and is full of family fun.”

The Jarrow Relay for Life has become the biggest in the region, largely due to Ann’s contacts within the community. As a teacher at Epinay School, Ann has been able to involve the children she teaches, as well as using her connections in other schools and sports organisations to recruit teams.

Promoting the event has become a full-time job for Ann: “I constantly badger people on social media to sign up to the relay” she said, “It takes a lot of hard work and a lot of hours – it’s basically become another full-time job for me to make sure everyone enjoys the event and come back again next year.”

In terms of the future, Ann is looking to make it bigger and better than ever. The 2018 relay will be Jarrow’s 12th year and the theme is set to be the 12 days of Christmas, with a fundraising target of £80,000. It is now seen nationally as a flagship relay and has a fantastic reputation for raising such a great amount of money in what is regarded as one of the poorest areas that these events are held.

One of Ann’s current targets is to have more teams from beyond South Tyneside participating. She said: “I would like more groups from outside of the borough to be involved. The Sunderland Relay unfortunately folded and it would be great to get Wearsiders involved in the Jarrow Relay, especially Sunderland University; I would love to have rival Newcastle University and Sunderland University teams one day.”

For more information on joining up to the Jarrow Relay For Life 2018 check out the Facebook page here

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