STEPHEN HEPBURN: Going extra mile for what we believe in

Cancer Research 24 hour relay for life held at Monkton Stadium, Jarrow.
Cancer Research 24 hour relay for life held at Monkton Stadium, Jarrow.
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We saw the essential goodness of Tynesiders in the Relay for Life in Jarrow’s Monkton Stadium.

Here was a group of people, hundreds of them, setting up camp to walk continuously in legs for 22 hours to raise funds for Cancer Research UK.

The community spirit was brilliant and the beauty of living in the North East is you are sure of a friendly face and a helping hand everywhere you go.

I was proud and honoured to be part of the very special Jarrow Relay event, now in its tenth year.

Cancer is an indiscriminate, merciless killer that touches many people’s lives and up to one in three of us will live under its shadow at some point.

But the great news is we’re increasingly winning the battle, uncovering new ways and treatments to beat cancer as I know personally from friends who survived a brush with the illness.

It’s the tireless work of charities such as Cancer Research UK, organising vital research and awareness about early detection, which is helping to turn the tide.

Cancer never sleeps and nor did the hundreds in Jarrow for the only Race for Life relay in the North East and what is one of the most successful in the country.

In the ten years since its launch, the event’s raised more than £500,000 and I was delighted organiser Ann Walsh’s tireless efforts were recognised with the award of a British Empire Medal in the Queen’s honours’ list to pay tribute to a wonderful decade of service.

Ann and her Relay for Life team put so much work into the annual fundraiser and a word of thanks deserves to go to South Tyneside Council which helps make it happen.

I saw several Councillors taking part and the relay’s success owes much to the fantastic support, participation and generosity of the local community.

We’re rightly famous in the world for our friendliness and neighbourliness, our decent values and strong sense of what’s right and wrong.

The North East isn’t as prosperous as some other parts of the country so it hurts when we endure unfairly heavy Government cuts.

I am proud too that Labour tripled spending to revive the NHS after years of Tory neglect and angry our Health Service is suffering again under the Conservatives.

I fear deeper cuts will be inflicted and I’m ready to fight all the way to save our precious services.

People up here are resilient and we’re stronger together through good times and bad.

The Jarrow Relay shows us that in our area people care and will always go that extra mile for what they believe in.