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IT is the charity fundraising event that has raised a staggering £490 million in its battle against cancer.
And in just five years alone women in Southampton and Winchester are responsible for £3.5 million of that amount – with every penny of sponsorship being used to help find a cure.
Today was no different.
Grandmothers, mums, daughters, sisters and friends united against the disease for the annual Race for Life in Southampton.
As soon as the 6,200 - s trong army stepout dressed head to toe in pink with personal messages attached to their backs ahead of the 5k and 10k routes on Southampton Common, there will not be one person who does not know what they represent.
And with its popularity today, it is almost impossible to remember the annual Cancer Research UK event’s humble roots.
Back in 1994, 19 years ago, a group of 680 women walked, jogged or ran around a 5k course in Battersea Park, London, and Race for Life was born. The event raised £36,000.
Inspired by America’s hugely successful ‘Race for the Cure’, Cancer Research UK set about trying to recreate the spirit and scale of the event in this country.
Three years later here in Hampshire 646 women in Southampton put their best foot forward. Between them they raised £27,568.72.
But few dreamed just how successful it would be and how UK women would embrace the event. And few dreamed that 6.5 million participants across the UK would later join those pion e e r i n g women to fundraise for Cancer Research UK’s vital work.
By 2007 10,000 women packed into the city’s Common to raise a r e c o r d - b r e a k i n g £566,244 and the Daily Echo won an award for giving the best media coverage in the UK.
Fast forward to today and organisers have predicted £300,000 will be raised by the women in Southampton tomorrow – that is more than TEN times the total amount raised 16 years ago.
It’s not surprising that the Race for Life, in partnership with Tesco, is the UK’s largest women-only fundraising event series with more than 230 events around the UK from May to September.
Events manager for Southampton and the south Janice Burtt, said: “It’s simply overwhelming what the Race for Life has become in 19 years.
“It’s now an event firmly penned on people’s calendars every year. I’ve personally been involved with Cancer Research UK for nine years and there isn’t an event I go to where I’m not totally amazed and overawed at the pink army coming together to embrace the fight against cancer.
“When you think in 19 years, £490 million has been raised, that’s a huge sum.
Without it scientists simply couldn’t do what they are doing throughout the UK and here in Southampton. You only have to see that survival rates have doubled over the last 40 years for it to hit home what a life-changing consequence this money has in the fight against cancer.”
A quick span of how much the charity pours into leading scientific and clinical research each year reveals how vital every penny is.
In fact Cancer Research UK receives no Government funding for its ground-breaking research, so money raised through Race for Life is crucial to the pioneering work of doctors, nurses and scientists who are fighting cancer on all fronts.
Last year the organisation spent more than £4 million in Southampton where researchers have an international reputation for their work in immunotherapy a type of treatment that harnesses the power of the body’s own immune system to target cancer. They are using the latest research advances to improve treatment for cancer patients in Southampton and across the UK.
And the charity is determined to ensure more and more money is raised each year to help tackle the more than 200 different types of cancer.
Ms Burtt, added: “Today there will be a huge buzz in Southampton.
There is always a fabulous atmosphere at the event and of course we’ve got the sunshine too.
“We can’t thank these women enough for what they do, they are amazing, they come together as a massive pink army and say ‘we are not going to let cancer walk all over us, cancer we will fight you’. It’s wonderful to be part of and now we want to create more tomorrows for more people and we are determined to keep pushing forward.”