24 Hour Fight Against Cancer Macarthur 2017 | mega gallery

The setting sun was casting long shadows across the Leumeah athletics stadium on Saturday evening, and legs were tired after a whole day walking laps, but it wasn't enough to stop this burst of energy.

I snapped this picture of an aerodynamic trio of students from Smeaton Grange’s Magdalene Catholic High School.

To me it served as a metaphor for the sheer energy of last weekend’s 24 Hour Fight Against Cancer Macarthur. Of us. By us. For us.

The weekend’s walkathon event was a huge success and should bring our total tally to more than $4 million raised for local cancer care.

And, I’ve gotta say, that’s a big relief to us on the organising committee because this was our first time without our founder, chairman and guiding force – Fred Borg.

Freddy’s death just before last December left us emotionally shattered and a bit lost for a time, but we pressed ahead led by new chairman Wazza Morrison and deputy Sue McGarrity, but with perhaps a slight apprehension.

We can build it, but will they come? Come they did.

Walkers from all ages and backgrounds poured in all day Saturday, either as registered teams or as last-minute visitors buying a t-shirt and hitting the track. Sue reckoned it was the largest overnight crowd she had ever seen, staying until the Sunday morning finish.

“Fred would be proud,” a lot of people said.

I hope so. I was certainly proud of our community.

Campbelltown is the host of this annual event and perhaps contributes the lion’s share of teams, but make no mistake, this is a Macarthur-wide event and I walked with familiar faces from as far apart as Pheasants Nest and Oran Park, and from Appin to The Oaks. That’s because every cent raised stays in Macarthur and looks after local cancer patients.

This was all Fred’s brainchild, so he was our symbolic “special guest” this year, with his fishing hat sitting on an empty chair, and his family joining us in force. Matty Borg, Fred’s grandson, MCs the opening ceremony and does a great job.

Because the 24 Hour Fight is not much of a minute’s-silence-sort-of-event, so we all paid tribute to Fred by getting the crowd to cheer and hold up hundreds of A4 copies of Fred’s face, kindly donated by Snap Printing.

His absence was indeed his presence – that’s a concept most of the teams already embrace.

My own family’s team, captained by my sister-in-law Samantha McGarrity, walks in memory of my personality-plus niece, Niamh, who died at the age of four from brain cancer in 2013. She is still with us and we will never forget her. Every team has their own absent-but-present members.

I want to give special praise to the young people, who dominated the event, and thrilled us with their keen involvement, friendliness and big smiles. If they are our future, Macarthur is in very good hands.

A special shout-out too, to the team of walkers led by Mark Wallington who each year leave Camden and walk through the night to arrive at Leumeah for the opening ceremony with a giant cheque. That’s the spirit I’m talking about.

The Fight is good at fighting cancer care; that's a given. It’s also really good for our wider reputation…we even had Bowral people travel up to join the effort.

But, as we despair at a world increasingly divided, to see a ground packed with people of every race, age and creed walking together in unity, arms around each other, I reckon this event is good for our social fabric.

Thanks, Fred.