GALLERY: Gracie inspires Flutterbys' relay spirit

A TOUCHING show of community support helped the family of Grace Howard through the weekend’s Corangamite Relay For Life less than a month after her tragic death. 

The 13-year-old Cobden girl’s three-year battle with a high-grade brain tumour sadly ended earlier this month, but friends and family used the weekend to pay tribute to her life and memory, while raising money for Cancer Council Australia. 

There were 32 teams and almost 1300 participants involved in the weekend event, already raising $84,382 with another month of fund-raising to come.

Event chairwoman Trish Wynd said it was amazing to see the Corangamite community support the Howard family, as a team named in her honour, Gracie’s Flutterbys, received 118 extra participant registrations on Saturday and raised more than $2600 over the weekend alone.

Gracie’s Flutterbys won the Spirit of Relay award and embodied the meaning of the entire event, Mrs Wynd said.

“It was amazing the amount of supporters that came through, just letting the family know their recent loss was acknowledged,” she said.

“Grace took part in the ceremonies last year and was known to everyone.

“What came out is that if you’re going to suffer through something, being part of a small community is the way to go.”

Mrs Wynd said the length of the 18-hour relay and different stages of light symbolised the battle with cancer.

“I like that it starts in daylight and of course it gets dark but you get to wake up the next day with sunshine in the morning.

“During the candlelight ceremony we had cancer survivors from the Timboon area telling us their stories.

“John Vogels shared about his journey with his wife, who passed away with breast cancer.”

Timboon resident and relay participant Marlene Van Nieuwkerk said it was uplifting to see so many people supporting each other through their journeys with cancer.

“Five years ago I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma and I’d never been sick in my life so it was a terrible shock I could be affected like that.

“You learn a lot about yourself through that journey and you learn you’re a hell of a lot stronger than you thought you were.

“The funds raised go a long way towards finding a cure and hoping one day our grandchildren will never have to know how terrifying cancer can be.

“I think so many people have been touched by cancer that they’re willing to dig deep and help.”

Her team, the Timboon Railway Trailers and Lions raised the most of any team, reaching over $16,000, while the award for best dressed team went to Team Kristygem, whose members wore unicorn onesies with horses painted on their cheeks.

Relay For Life community engagement co-ordinator Sarah Mayhew said the weather was perfect for the entire weekend.

“The event had just such a wonderful feel to it,” she said. Live music from local talent and movies kept walkers entertained throughout the night.

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