Thousands unite in Far North's Relay for Life
ELLIE Pratley never got to meet her grandfather Gary.
a curious two-year-old that she reached out to clasp the paper bag laden with loving messages to him.
When Gary Stephenson died from cancer in 2007, daughter Jodi and the rest of the family took it upon themselves to keep his memory alive through Relay for Life.
And as tears were shed by the light of the candlelight ceremony, it was just another chance to remember their father, husband and grandfather.
"We’ve got a picture of Dad down there with our candles, so it’s a time to stop and think about him," Mrs Pratley said.
"And I think too, because he didn’t meet my daughter (Ellie), so when she’s standing there too it makes it a little bit more special and sad at the same time."
As the lights were dimmed for the annual ceremony, hundreds of paper bags carrying messages to loved ones and candles lit up Barlow Park.
As always, it was an emotive and sombre break in the program of the otherwise festival atmosphere which characterises the Cairns’ Relay event.
"You always tell yourself you won’t cry during the ceremony, but you do every year," breast cancer survivor Jacqui Fidrmuc said.
Thousands once again turned out at Barlow Park at the weekend in the name of cancer research. As dawn broke on the 18-hour event, fundraising efforts were nearing $450,000 and organiser Rachel Wilson lauded it as one of the best in the event’s 11 year history in Cairns.
"We had 221 teams which was a record," she said.
"We still have a few more weeks of fundraising. This time last year we had $470,000 in the bank so we’re actually on par with what we had last year.
"The extra 20-odd teams we managed to fit in this year were just brilliant and the costumes were just fantastic, they just exceed themselves each time.
"The more money we can raise, the more it goes towards our lodge and the more we hope we can beat this horrible disease."
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We remember: Jodi Pratley, with her daughter Ellie, took part in the candlelight ceremony to honour Jodiís father, Gary Stephenson. Picture: MIKE WATT