Nikki Bradley cutting the tape to start last year's Donegal Relay for Life. Photo Clive Wasson
In a week when a cheque for 62,000 euro was handed over to the Irish Cancer Society from the Donegal Relay for Life committee, it was revealed that Letterkenny will be at the centre of a significant new cancer research project that will come on stream in the coming months.
Addressing a special presentation evening in the town on Monday, Dr Rob O’Connor, Head of Research with the I.C.S., said they had been approached with an idea and hoped to get a full proposal to bring the project forward.
“We are recognising the need for more research for patients who have been through a cancer journey and while this project is at its preliminary stages at present, Letterkenny will be at the forefront of it,” he revealed.
Accepting the cheque for 62,681,25 euro, handed over to the I.C.S. representative by local Relay for Life Treasurer, Drew Corry – the proceeds from the event held last June – Dr O’Connor (pictured right) spoke of the vital need for research and the funding required to keep it going.
“Around 170,000 Irish patients are alive because of cancer research,” said the I.C.S. representative who said they were moving away from just focusing on the tumour and are now focusing on the person as a whole.
Survival rates from the disease were increasing every year, he acknowledged.
“But we cannot undertake this research without the support from you and the community,” he told the attendance.
Letterkenny was, he indicated, one of fourteen centres around the country where clinical trials are held.
“I was in Dungloe and one lady came up to me and said that she had been involved in that study.”
In all up to 2,000 patients all over Ireland took part in clinical trials last year, Dr O’Connor disclosed.
Speaking after the presentation, the I.C.S. chief said Ireland boasted some of the top researchers in the world and ongoing research was offering real hope to patients and families dealing with the issue of cancer.
Donegal, he said, was a significant contributor to this research and the latest cheque handed over by the Relay for Life committee would significantly benefit the projects.
Introducing the proceedings at the Mount Errigal Hotel, the chairperson of Donegal Relay for Life, Robert O’Connor said that cancer did not pick and choose. “It knocks on the door without any warning and research is key in the fight against it.”
Relay for Life was a “wonderful event” on the Donegal calendar and helped raise both funding and awareness. From the latter perspective, they focused on education and two secondary schools, the Loreto Convent in Letterkenny and Mulroy College in Milford, had established projects as part of a thirteen week programme.
“We hope to get other schools throughout the county involved in addition,” said the chairperson.
On an evening when a number of presentations were made, the most surprised recipient was the chairperson himself who was heralded for his ongoing work and dedication to the Relay cause.
That work was recognised by all involved, Relay committee member, Ena Barrett, told the gathering, adding that Robert ensured that everything was done right and they were transparent and accountable.
“He has been doing this for the past five years and we hope to have him here for the next five years,” she maintained.
Dr O’Connor also acknowledged the unstinting efforts of his namesake and spoke of his clear vision and dedication and how he challenged people to come out and help for the cause.
There was also a special singalong presentation to Maggie McAteer, musical director with the Survivors Choir, without whom, Donal Kavanagh insisted, there would be no choir and a presentation to Caitriona Kelly Gillespie for her involvement with the Candle of Hope ceremony.
Tributes were also paid to two members of the Relay committee who are stepping down from their respective roles, Mags Coyle and Suibhan Gillespie. “They have been extremely dedicated to our committee’s objectives over the past few years and have worked tirelessly. They may be taking a break from the committee but I know they both will be present for the next Relay,” chairperson O’Connor pointed out.
That next Donegal Relay for Life event will be held, he confirmed, on May 27th and 28th, 2017, at the LYIT campus.
Meanwhile, the Letterkenny Shopping Centre will be sponsoring a fashion show at the Clanree Hotel on Thursday November 12th with all proceeds going to the Relay for Life.
During Monday evening’s presentation event, there was a moment of reflection for those who succumbed to their illnesses since the last Relay for Life weekend.