Owen Finegan’s 2023 Highlights

Owen Finegan’s 2023 Highlights

As we approach the holidays, come celebrate milestones and highlights with us!

Owen Intro Image
CEO Owen Finegan and Santa Bear

Unfortunately, it’s impossible for me to detail everything that has made this year so great. But below is a selection of highlights from 2023 and how our community and partners – people like you − are having a remarkable impact on childhood cancer research.

Our amazing team are always striving to do more

Our volunteer board − a small but hardworking team – as well as our Research Advisory Committee, full-time staff, volunteers, our amazing community, corporate supporters, and donors all allow us to support bold and innovative scientists who have invested their time and effort into the pursuit of life-changing research. Our passion is for the three families that hear the words ‘your child has cancer’ and unfortunately the three children that are passing away every week.

Over the last year, we have independently reviewed our commitment and impact from our previous research investment over the last five years to ensure that our research investment reflects the needs of the childhood cancer community. A researcher survey, in combination with an audit of the childhood cancer research sector (national and international), has identified some key opportunities and barriers which was used to guide the drafting of our new 2024-29 Kids’ Cancer Project strategic pillars, research priorities and strategy that will be launched in January.

As part of our collaboration with Cancer Australia’s Priority driven Collaborative Cancer Research Scheme (PdCCRS), I enjoyed reviewing 11 applications as one of several review panels participating in a Grant Review Committee. Since 2015, The Kids’ Cancer Project has committed over $4.65 million which has been matched by the Australian Government through Cancer Australia and like-minded cancer research funding partners to lead to more than $10 million in total of childhood cancer research funding.

Raising awareness and funds

15 February 2023 was International Childhood Cancer Day, a global collaborative campaign to raise awareness about childhood cancer, and to express support for children and adolescents with cancer, the survivors and their families. In line with this, we launched our inaugural national awareness campaign, K’Day. A day where you swap the iconic G’day with K’day, make a donation and have a conversation about the 950 Aussie kids diagnosed with cancer every year and are unable to enjoy their childhoods the way they should.

Our national campaign raised awareness, securing significant pro-bono support from several media outlets, including the support of our partners, Nine Entertainment to drive awareness. On K’day, over $220,000 was raised for vital kids’ cancer research thanks to our corporate partners and major donors who allowed all donations received from our donors and community on 15 February to be matched.

On 19 May we once again celebrated with over 535 swashbuckling pirates jumping aboard for Pirate Day 2023 raising awareness of childhood brain cancer and over $125,000 to help turn the tide on childhood brain cancer by funding vital research. Funds raised were directed to Dr Danielle Upton’s research investigating potential therapies for diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG). From early learning centres and schools to community groups and workplaces, there were hundreds of events hosted across the country. We look forward to seeing you in 2024.

Raising awareness and funds (Pirate) Image
Retail Management Group – Holbrook
Raising awareness and funds (WABIAD) Image
King's Pimpama

Our 21st edition of Write a Book in a Day was the biggest year yet. A fun, creative and collaborative challenge for writers, and the gift of reading for sick children. All completed stories are shared with hospitals around Australia for families and children undergoing treatment, plus the money you raise goes toward much-needed childhood cancer research. Check out our Winners for 2023 and be inspired for your own Write a Book in a Day! This year we had a record of over 14,074 writers and 1,939 teams across Australia participated and we had a record of over $900,000 raised for childhood cancer research.

In November, over a long weekend at the Randwick Netball Association in Maroubra, we once again saw the amazing Tie Dye Project in action. Australian Diamonds Netballer Amy Parmenter and sarcoma survivor and childhood cancer advocate Molly Croft have become a dynamic duo.

After raising over $500,000 for childhood cancer research in the last few years, the Tie Dye Project once again, through their community of volunteers, produced over 2000 shirts, scrunchies, tote bags, towels and socks to continue the support of a research project that is focusing on a clinical translation of CAR T cell therapy for the treatment of sarcoma. The project is being led by Molly’s oncologist Professor Geoff McCowage & Dr Kavitha Gowrishankar out of the Children’s Hospital at Westmead and they are also funding Dr Jacqui McGovern’s project that is looking to accelerate the translation of precision medicine from bench-to-bedside for childhood sarcoma patients.

2023 also marked a decade as the charity partner for the Macquarie Bondi to Bronte Ocean Swim, the partnership has generated almost $350,000 since its inception. The collective effort this year resulted in an impressive $20,000 raised. A notable highlight of the day was Nathan Rix, a true hero and inspirational figure who, despite facing a malignant tumour diagnosis at the age of eight and later losing his leg due to cancer relapse at 18, completed the Bondi to Bronte once again raising over $2,000 and finished the swim in an impressive 1 hour and 8 minutes. His inspiring journey and resilience serve as a testament to the importance of ongoing support for The Kids' Cancer Project's mission.

Our powerful community of heroes

We have so many incredible and passionate fundraisers, and I’d like to extend a thank you to every single person who has dedicated their own time to raising vital funds for kids’ cancer research. One person I’d like to highlight today is, Mark Pacey, a dedicated advocate and long-time fundraiser for The Kids' Cancer Project, who orchestrated a remarkable series of events in celebration of the organisation's 30th Anniversary.

The festivities commenced with a spirited trivia night and the pinnacle of Mark's commemorative efforts was an awe-inspiring 30km swim, a physical feat undertaken with unwavering passion and perseverance. Mark, propelled by a deep and very personal commitment to raising awareness and funds, completed the challenging swim in 10 hours and 28 minutes, contributing significantly to the cause. Mark's individual swim and additional funds were raised through various events organized by his supportive community of donors – meaning the total contribution from The Bloody Long Day was almost $90,000. Thank you, Mark.

Our powerful community of heroes (Mark Pacey) Image
Mark on his Bloody Long Day
Our powerful community of heroes (Sarah Weir) Image
Sarah Weir's tea and cake

Sarah Weir’s High Tea for a High Cause was held on a Saturday in early October. It was an incredibly special day, celebrating the launch of Sarah’s book – Moon & Back, the story of her journey with daughter Evie, who sadly passed away in 2017 from Neuroblastoma. The day was jam packed with fundraising and over $19,000 was raised. The High Tea for a High Cause event not only honours Evie's memory but also contributes significantly to advancing the mission of combating Neuroblastoma. As Sarah continues to share her story through Moon & Back, the impact of this collective effort reverberates, fostering a sense of unity, compassion, and hope within the community.

We were once again able to celebrate that the NSW Netball Community had raised over $200,000 throughout 2023 through Crazy Hair and Sock Day and support from the Tie Dye Project. The netball community came out in force again for 2023, with 44 Netball associations across NSW donning their loony locks and crazy socks to raise funds and have fun for an important cause. Thanks to Netball NSW and the NSW Swifts for their support for over a decade as a partner and to the incredible Swifts fans for their generosity.

Our powerful community of heroes (Netball NSW) Image
NSW Netball with Oscar

Corporate Partners

Corporate Partners (Lorraine Lea) Image
Col with friends from Lorraine Lea

Lorraine Lea’s Party for Kids with Cancer is a national fundraising appeal that has donated over $2 million to hospitals and charities that treat kids’ cancers and charities that help the families of children living with cancer. In 2023, Lorraine Lea raised over $83,000 to support our mission to improve the quality of life for children living with cancer and a shared goal of 100% survival with minimal side effects from childhood cancer.

The Bromic Group came together for an afternoon filled with friendly competition and some creative fundraising with their Back to School Challenge, transforming the staff back into students. The Kids' Cancer Project's Founder, Col Reynolds, attended the event and was impressed by the amazing generosity of the Bromic team raising over $30,000. The Trademark Group of Companies community came together in support of The Kids’ Cancer Project hosting a gala event and CEO head shave raising over $65,000.

Corporate Partners (Bromic) Image
The Bromic team with Oscar

The Air Conditioning & Mechanical Contractors Association (AMCA) is the national industry body representing businesses operating in the commercial heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) industry.  In 2023 the AMCA Annual Conference, a head shave, Golf Days in Melbourne and Canberra and with a further five AMCA members joining us at our Christmas for a Cure event the AMCA raised over $120,000.

In November, to celebrate their 70th anniversary, our corporate partner Stylecraft held Bowling for Cancer events across Australia. Taking place across their seven showroom locations in Australia and Singapore, as a celebration of their 70-year heritage Stylecraft and their community raised over $80,000 for children’s cancer research.

Facilities Management Australia, which represents professionals, teams and organisations involved in the strategic and operational management of facilities across Australia, this year have raised over $50,000 from a Golf Day in Sydney and the FMA Gala Awards night in Melbourne.

I’d also like to extend a special thanks to Smartways Logistics, who continue to help us deliver the bears that are kindly donated by our supporters to Children’s hospitals across Australia all year round and who at this busy Christmas time helping us deliver over 1,500 Santa bears across the Christmas period.

30 years of supporting kids with cancer

In August we celebrated Col Reynolds and The Kids’ Cancer Projects 30th Anniversary and our wonderful achievement of our Kids Cancer Project community including our families, researchers, donors, board members, corporate and charity partners, community fundraisers and supporters. We celebrated the fact that together, we can create opportunities for kids to not only survive but thrive.

There were a couple of major recognitions for Col Reynolds and The Kids’ Cancer Project this year. At the Research Australia, Health and Medical Research Gala Awards, Col Reynolds was awarded the 2023 Advocacy award. The Kids’ Cancer Project were also awarded The Royal Alexandra Society Award from the Sydney Children’s Hospital Foundation for the extraordinary support of over $15 million. This prestigious award also recognises the charity’s continued commitment to supporting pioneering research projects at the hospital.

Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month where we raise awareness around the impact of childhood cancer, including the heartbreaking statistic that every day across Australia three families will hear the words ‘your child has cancer’ and each week three children will die of cancer.  Every one of you can, and generously does, contribute to changing these statistics by funding vital research, that we believe will one day cure every child of cancer. 

The Better Challenge is a 90km challenge for the 90 kids that will be diagnosed over September and a reminder that everyone can contribute to changing these statistics by funding vital research, that we believe will one day cure every child of cancer. We launched The Better Challenge with a live event on the Today Show, raising awareness nationally and 1,000 Australians registered for the month-long challenge to do 90km ‘your way’ for the 90 kids that would be diagnosed across the month and raised over $300,000 towards childhood cancer research.

In September, The Kids’ Cancer Project launched our Spring newsletter, sharing some examples of what our researchers are working on, the impact they are having on kids and their families, and of course, how people like you are making it all happen. We look forward to sharing a second edition next year.

Ending the year with a bang

Ending the year with a bang (C4AC) Image
Our founder Col with Santa

The Kids’ Cancer Project also held its signature Christmas for a Cure event for the 7th time, bringing together our loyal supporters and partners for an afternoon of fun, banter, entertainment and most importantly, to raise awareness and over $350,000 for life-saving childhood cancer research.

Professor Matt Dun, who tragically lost his daughter Josephine to DIPG in 2019, shared a moving perspective on the impact of a diagnosis of this incurable form of childhood brain cancer and his research project to find better treatments for future children diagnosed with this hideous disease.

While you and I are having a break over Christmas, spare a thought for Captain Australia. Following the success of ‘Captain Australia’s Big Walk’, which raised over $150,000 for The Kids’ Cancer Project, Captain Australia has undertaken an even bigger endeavour – Caps Big Lap. Caps Big Lap is a huge undertaking with Captain Australia is circumnavigating the entire perimeter of Australia on foot. Sleeping rough, no help from cars, trains or planes. Caps Big Lap began 16 July 2023, and should take 18-24 months. Captain Australia has raised $42,700 and hopes to raise $1million dollar over two years. Incredible. You can follow along on his journey or donate here.

Ending the year with a bang (Cap Aus) Image
Captain Australia on the march

Of course, I could go on. So, thank you for reading just an overview of our year in review and for your wonderful and incredibly meaningful support.

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