A Chinese dragon boat race is being organised to boost a fund-raising campaign set up by inspirational cancer sufferer Irfon Williams.
Teams from the world of business are being sought to take part in the race that will take place at the All-Wales Boat Show in Pwllheli on Sunday, May 10, the final day of the three-day event.
The wooden boats will be powered through the water by teams of 16 paddlers.
After being diagnosed with bowel cancer, father-of-five Irfon Williams and his family set up the #teamirfon campaign through the North Wales NHS charity, Awyr Las – Blue Sky – with the aim of raising £20,000 to support the Alaw Unit of Ysbyty Gwynedd.
Irfon, from Bangor, made headlines after being forced to move to England in order to get a three month course of the drug Cetuximab which could extend his life.
It’s hoped the dragon boat racing corporate charity challenge will boost the #teamirfon campaign, which, having raised almost £50,000, has already smashed its original £20,000 fundraising target.
According to Davina Carey-Evans, the organiser of the All-Wales Boat Show, she has been inspired by the remarkable courage and determination shown by Irfon.
She said: “Dragon boat racing is really good fun and gender is no barrier. Females can compete on equal terms and we would hope most boats will be made up of a mixed gender crews.
“I’m hoping we can find 15 businesses to take up the challenge at a cost of £300 per team which would cover the cost of the dragon boats, safety teams and so forth.
“Team members, made up of employees, their families and friends, would get personal sponsorship with the money raised going to the #teamirfon campaign.
“And with 16 paddlers per boat plus a drummer that could be a substantial amount of money which will give the campaign a huge and welcome boost.
“Obviously, if a business has a particular charity they support and want some of the cash raised to go to that particular charity that would be perfectly acceptable.”
Irfon Williams said: “The campaign isn’t about raising funds for cancer research – it’s about helping people affected by cancer and in particular those affected by depression.
“I was been treated in Bangor at Ysbyty Gwynedd but the NHS don’t fund training in dealing with depression. But it’s a fact that 80% of men diagnosed with cancer also suffer from depression while 50% of all cancer sufferers suffer the condition.
“Women seem better able to deal with the diagnosis than men perhaps because they are simply better at expressing their emotions.”
Irfon, who works in mental health as the Service Manager for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services in North Wales, said: “I want to support and help local cancer sufferers in North Wales.
“Money raised through the #teamirfon campaign is helping to fund wigs and headwear for women who lose their hair following chemotherapy.
“Also it’s helping to provide complementary therapies like reflexology and therapeutic massage, and counselling services for patients being treated at the Alaw Unit. All of these things go above and beyond what the NHS is able to provide.
“I know these important extra services, which are funded through donations can really help reduce the impact cancer has on the mental health of patients.
“The dragon boat race at the All-Wales Boat Show will be a fantastic event which will hopefully raise a huge amount of money that will go to support our appeal and help countless cancer patients being treated at Ysbyty Gwynedd’s Alaw Unit.
“I’d encourage as many firms and business as possible from right across Wales to sign up and give it a go. It promises to be a really colourful, vibrant and fun event.”
According to Irfon, it will be a welcome distraction from his own predicament.
He said: “I was diagnosed with bowel cancer last year and that has now spread to my liver. I have been having chemotherapy but needed a three month course of Cetuximab alongside the chemo.
“There is only a very small chance of a cure but at the very least it will prolong my life. I’m always optimistic and try to stay positive. The glass is always half full never half empty as far as I’m concerned.
“I have been staying in Ellesmere Port at a relative’s home so I can get Cetuximab treatment as it is available in England. It’s something of a post code lottery I’m afraid. We have also started a new campaign called #HawliFyw or #FightingChance.
“#FightingChance is a campaign calling for cross-party support to change the Welsh Government’s policy and ensure more than 70 targeted cancer treatments, which include drugs and specialist radiotherapy techniques, become available in Wales.”
The All-Wales Boat Show, now in its third year, is a festival showcasing all water-based activities.
The three-day event which takes place between Friday, May 8 and Sunday, May 10 will have a huge range of exhibitors, show events and activities and is a must-visit for any boat owner, watersports-lover or family looking for a great day out.
Davina Carey-Evans, Managing Director of Wales Watersports International which operates the All-Wales Boat Show, said: “We will have an even bigger range of boats on show this year with everything from high end luxury craft to Sealeg which is a rib that can literally drive onto a beach, along with hand built boats, boats that you can fold up and put in the back of your car and paddle boards.
“In addition, there’ll be plenty of entertainment with a jet ski world champion and wakeboarding displays.
To make a donation through Irfon Williams’ Just Giving page visit www.justgiving.com/teamirfon and to sign the Fighting Chance petition visit www.ipetitions.com/petition/hawl-i-fywfighting-chance
For more information and for tickets for the All-Wales Boat Show visit www.allwalesboatshow.com