VIRTUAL balloons will be released next month to support people affected by cancer.

People are urged to sign up and take part in the week-long event, with prizes including £500 cash and an Apple iPad up for grabs.

It will be hosted on the Ecoracing website, which specialises in virtual balloon races to raise money for charity.

Balloons can be bought for £3 each and participants will be able to enhance their chances of winning by customising features, such as the thickness of rubber and helium content.

After the ‘launch’ on Friday, July 3, an advanced computer model, based on real-time weather data, will simulate the race. Progress can be tracked via Google Maps.

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At the end of the week, the balloons that have travelled the furthest will be declared the winners.

All proceeds will go towards supporting cancer services at the Lynda Jackson Macmillan Centre at Mount Vernon Cancer Centre, Northwood.

Fund-raiser Joe Dunster said: “The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic means money is desperately needed now more than ever.

“With all of our events cancelled due to coronavirus, we’ve had to come up with virtual replacements to instead.

“It’s the 72nd anniversary of the NHS on July 5 and what better way to celebrate than with a sky full of balloons – even if they are digital ones!”