A lasting legacy

After an extraordinary 22 years of fundraising for oncology researchers at the Mater, the Coalfields Cancer Support Group has decided the time is right to call time on their fundraising.

To recognise this remarkable group of fundraisers the hospital held a thank you morning tea at East Cessnock Bowling Club where Hospital Scientists Jennette Sakoff, Lisa Lincz, Jayne Gilbert and Fiona Scorgie attended, along with Mary Ringstad, Helen Ellis and Deb Astawa.

With a relationship spanning over two decades this event was at times emotional but what permeated throughout was the deep respect between both parties.

Over this time the group raised $667,000 for the hospital which helped fund the Coalfields Cancer Support Group Equipment Grant that is awarded to oncology researchers on an annual basis at our Celebration of Service.

The group began as a support group for cancer patients and survivors and their loved ones, and held their first raffle at Christmas in 1999, raising $4,000. The decision was made to donate the proceeds to local cancer research efforts at the Mater.

Marie Main, Coalfields Cancer Support Group President, said of their first-ever cheque handover to the research scientists, “You would have thought we gave them $4 million!”

From countless raffles, bingo days, country music nights and coach trips to every corner of Australia, the group has funded vital equipment for the Mater’s research teams to use in treatment and clinical trials.

Over the many years of fundraising, the group has been grateful for the support of the Cessnock community. Marie said, “The whole town has supported us – if we invited everyone who supported us we would have to get the Opera House to fit everybody in! When we said it was for the Mater, people wouldn’t hesitate.”

The group’s fundraising efforts took a hit during COVID-19, and between that and its ageing membership, the decision was made to fold.

Despite a slow year in 2020, the group handed over one last cheque for $12,000 at the morning tea.

Dr Jennette Sakoff, Chief Hospital Scientist, said,

“It was a sad moment when the group decided to call it a day and wind up their fundraising efforts, however, the legacy from their devotion will continue. The equipment purchased from their dedication has provided our research teams with the infrastructure and tools to conduct crucial clinical trials and laboratory-based research for our local community.

“It has been an absolute pleasure to work with Marie and her team of fellow supporters. Their kindness, friendship and generosity will be treasured forever.”

As a sign of the Mater’s gratitude for the groups many years of support, each member was presented with a Calvary Mater Newcastle 20 years of service badge and a rose corsage.

Mary Ringstad, Director of Mission, said the hospital had a “deep gratitude” for the group’s commitment to fundraising for cancer research.

“To choose to donate to research shows a lot of wisdom,” she said.

“We have benefited enormously as have our patients. You leave an extraordinary legacy – financial, research and the relationships that have been formed.”


With thanks to The Advertiser