Running and walking for a cure

This article has photo gallery Published on Ms Dallas McMaugh (author)

Location(s): Nowra Showground

Commanding Officer HMAS Albatross Captain Fiona Sneath, RAN, and the HMAS Albatross Relay for Life team at the 2017 Nowra Relay for Life. (photo: LSIS Justin Brown)
Commanding Officer HMAS Albatross Captain Fiona Sneath, RAN, and the HMAS Albatross Relay for Life team at the 2017 Nowra Relay for Life.

The rain did little to dampen the enthusiasm of participants in the Shoalhaven Relay for Life this year, which included teams from 723 Squadron, HMAS Creswell and HMAS Albatross.

Sponsorship in the walking/running relay at the end of March supports the Cancer Council’s research, prevention, information and support services. Similar events are held across the country.

'Team Bravo' which was made up of personnel from different units across Albatross was coordinated by Able Seaman Aircraft Technician Avionics Alanah Whitburn of the Training Authority - Aviation Hangar Maintenance Team.

Able Seaman Whitburn was a source of inspiration and motivation for her team with her own very personal family story of the impact of cancer.

She lost her mother to cervical cancer in February, and said that while she was keen to raise funds for the Cancer Council’s vital work that wasn’t her only her motivation.

“I also wanted to raise awareness about getting regular checks for cancers like cervical, breast and prostate, and I think it's important to celebrate the lives of those we have lost, to support those who have survived cancer and to thank the carers for looking after our loved ones," she said.

"This includes volunteers from the Cancer Council, palliative and hospice staff and community workers who support families through cancer.

“I was overwhelmed by the support for the team, which was given at all rank levels.

"It was fantastic to see the Commanding Officer Captain Fiona Sneath, Ship's Warrant Officer Sharon Campbell and Commander Fleet Air Arm Commodore Chris Smallhorn attend on the day,” Able Seaman Whitburn said.

Captain Sneath said the event provided a valuable opportunity to reflect on how cancer impacts, both directly and indirectly, on many lives.

“The Relay for Life does not distinguish cancer types, and recognises the support of carers as well as the journey and strength of survivors," she said.

“Dealing with a cancer diagnosis is a real team effort and includes medical and support teams on the home and work fronts. 

"The relay is an inclusive event which recognises this and is a great way for the Albatross team to demonstrate to ourselves, and the wider community, how we can work together to support a worthy cause that unfortunately touches so many,” Captain Sneath said.  

The event raised more than $115,000. HMAS Creswell raised $4,904, and Team Bravo not only raised more than$3,300 but took first place for the best team baton.

The crowd pleasing baton was a miniature helicopter with design, engineering and four days of construction from Team Bravo Leading Seaman Aircraft Technician Avionics Christie Thompson and Leading Seaman Aircraft Technician Avionics Luke Gillespie.

Able Seaman Whitburn said she had mixed feelings on the day of the relay.

“It being so close to my mother's passing made it emotionally difficult but I know it is something she would be proud of," she said.

"It was great to just walk and talk with people. I think telling my story to people opened up a lot of people's minds to how common cancer is and how it can just tap you on the shoulder.

“The opening ceremony was an important highlight, especially since we had a few members of our team who survivors of cancer."

She said another emotional moment was reflecting on those who had passed away.

"Although sad, it was beautiful to commemorate those we have loved and lost, those who have fought and who are still fighting, and those who care for cancer sufferers and their families,” she said. 

Participation in events such as this gives Navy personnel opportunity to build and maintain their fitness in a team-oriented environment.