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24-Hour Relay runners gung-ho to help kids

Organizers hope to top $514,000 raised in '06 for youngsters to attend Camp Shawnigan

Sandra McCulloch, Times Colonist

Published: Sunday, June 03, 2007

The Easter Seals 24-Hour Relay yesterday afternoon looked more like a party than a fundraiser to send disabled children to summer camp.

Live music blared from a stage set up in the infield of UVic's stadium, there were people in costumes, lots of balloons and a stream of energetic participants doing their own kind of dance around the university.

The relay winds up at 10 a.m. today, and organizers hope to beat the $514,000 raised at last year's event. About 2,500 participants, volunteers, supporters and sponsors came out in summer-like conditions to help send children to Camp Shawnigan. The special camp has all the equipment to help children with disabilities have fun and play together.


Justin Whitson, 17, Josh Logan, 14, Warren Lai, 13, and James Behrens, 13, run in the Easter Seals 24-Hour Relay for the Kids as part of a 20-member Canadian Scottish Regiment Cadets team.

Debra Brash, Times Colonist

The cost of $2,200 per child for a week's camp is substantial, and that's why fundraising is so important. The camp costs are entirely subsidized by the funds raised at this event.

The numbers of participants is up this year because of the sunny weather, said event manager Pam Prewett.

"It's going fantastic today because the weather couldn't be better. We've got so many new teams, 56 teams, which is awesome.

"Our tent city is full, our campsite is full, and that always makes it more exciting."

Many people spent the entire 24 hours at the stadium and fitted in naps and meals between running laps. It was hard to miss the boisterous team of army cadets, ages 12-18, clad in kilts and T-shirts.

"The kids are just pumped," said Capt. Larry Jeffries of the Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps, branch 2136.

"Anything to do with the regiment, they want to do as much as they possibly can."

There were cadets playing bagpipes for those crossing the finish line of the loop, said Lieut. Cheryl Fearn.

"It's esprit de corps but it's teamwork, too. We've blended our team so we've got some of the brand-new cadets running with some senior cadets. They're all carrying the banner and taking turns. It's pride in the corps and pride in being a cadet. It's pretty exciting."

Meanwhile, Puff the fire clown -- a.k.a. Dan Poirier -- took his time running the loop because of stops to make balloon characters for children along the way. He was dressed partly as a fireman, with yellow pants cut short, and partly a clown, with full makeup.

Poirier, a member of the Sooke Volunteer Fire Department, said the relay is also an opportunity to talk about fire safety. The department's team hoped to beat last year's $7,000 contribution to the cause.

"We just love to come out and do it for the kids," he said before his run.

The 80-member team from Victoria Starbuck's outlets was sipping water, not coffee.

"I'm not stressed or nervous, just looking for some exercise in the sun," said Randy Kennett before embarking on his circuit. "It's a great cause and we've done it for years.

"We have people from every store coming out, and they're all slotted in at different times."

The event is staged by the B.C. Lions Society for Children with Disabilities. There are 11 similar relays across the country.

More than $51 million has been raised nationally to support local Easter Seals programs and services.