'Absolute inspiration' Ann Walsh ready for memorable weekend ahead of return of Relay for Life and carrying Queen's Baton

Ann Walsh has been hailed as ‘an absolute inspiration’ ahead of a memorable weekend that will see her carry the Queen’s Baton in South Tyneside and the return of Jarrow's Relay for Life event after a two-year absence due to Covid.

The annual race has been held in Jarrow under Ann’s stewardship for 14 years and is set to cap a big weekend for the fundraiser, who is also due to carry the Queen’s Baton as part of the warm up to the Commonwealth Games.

The retired PE teacher’s father had recently been diagnosed with lung cancer and had lost a friend to ovarian cancer when she was approached about Relay for Life by the parent of former pupils.

Hide Ad

Since then, she has lost her dad and mum, George and Peggy, and younger sister, Julie, to the disease.

Relay for Life organiser Ann Walsh with brain tumour survivor Lily Slater ahead of the event at Monkton Stadium.

Most Popular

    Read More
    14 photos as people enjoy the South Shields sunshine at Sandhaven beach

    But the chance to throw herself into the fightback against it has offered her a “type of therapy”.

    Hide Ad

    “We were hit particularly hard as a family by cancer,” she said ahead of the event’s return following a two-year break forced on it by the coronavirus pandemic.

    “Being involved in all the fundraising has helped in a way – it’s a way of dealing with it.

    Hide Ad
    Relay for Life organiser Ann Walsh with brain tumour survivor Lily Slater ahead of the event at Monkton Stadium.

    "I know I couldn’t really do anything to help my family but I can maybe fundraise enough to stop somebody else’s family going through it.”

    Hide Ad

    Her 14 years as chair of Relay for Life Jarrow, which returns to Monkton Stadium on Saturday (July 16), has seen her supported by her family, including her daughter Rebecca Walsh, with £810,000 collected for Cancer Research UK to pay for research into treatment and other support, helping earn her a British Empire Medal along the way.

    And she is expecting another generous display from the South Tyneside, admitting her expectations had already been exceeded, despite the ongoing cost of living crisis.

    Hide Ad

    The 22-hour long relay, which is organised with the help of South Tyneside Council, will continue on Sunday (July 17), with more than 30 teams signed up for event and about £20,000 raised so far.

    Ann Walsh with her British Empire Medal
    Hide Ad

    Before the starting gun is fired, however, Ann will be on South Shields seafront on Friday (July 15) to carry the Queen’s Baton after she was nominated for the honour by the local authority in recognition of her fundraising efforts.

    “I’m very proud to be able to carry it,” Ann added, “what an honour to be picked out of all those people.”

    Hide Ad

    The event begins at 11am on Saturday, with the Opening Ceremony and Survivors’ Lap of Honour, which sees cancer survivors walk the first lap, cheered by supporters, to show.

    Throughout the day, visitors will be able to enjoy entertainment from solo singers and bands and can also help with fundraising by buying items from stalls or donating old clothes.

    Hide Ad

    At 10pm on Saturday, the Candle of Hope ceremony will take place, with candles lit in memory of those who have lost their lives to cancer, as well as in a show of support for those currently battling the disease.

    The final lap, at 9am on Sunday, will be followed by a closing ceremony, led by Councillor Tracey Dixon, Leader of South Tyneside Council.

    Hide Ad

    Cancer Research UK’s relationship manager for the North East, Nicky McKenna, called Ann an absolute inspiration.

    She added: “Ann’s work is something to be both admired and celebrated.”

    Hide Ad

    Nearby residents are reminded there may be some noise coming from the stadium, but organisers of the event hope to cause minimal disruption.