As The Kids’ Cancer Project office reopened on 2 January 2018, a curious notification was flagged in the online donations system.
A $3,000 gift with a note saying, ‘In lieu of wedding presents’, had been given among all the generous Christmas appeal donations.
But who was behind this gorgeous act of generosity? And what prompted them to choose a charity with a mission to fund childhood cancer research?
“I just had to know the full story,” said Veena Singh, Head of Individual Giving at The Kids’ Cancer Project. “The first day back in the office after holidays always feels like a chore, but this news gave us such a lift.”
Thankfully the mystery donor provided contact details and it wasn’t long before staff were properly introduced to newlyweds Emma and Joseph. The couple tied the knot on 25 November 2017 in front of 90 family and friends during a traditional church ceremony at St Thomas Aquinas, ACT.
“We slipped a card in the invitations telling our guests not to bring wedding presents, instead we’d have a ‘wishing well’ and would be donating half of the money gifted to us to The Kids’ Cancer Project,” said Emma.
Emma is studying to be a teacher and right now is running school holiday activities for kids four years and up.
But that’s only one of the reasons giving to a charity that helps children was so important to Emma and her new husband.
The 27-year-old bride was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia when she was just fourteen. She’s in remission now and in remarkably good health given all the chemotherapy she had as a teenager.
“I had nine months of intense chemotherapy, bone marrow aspirates along with lumbar punctures before moving on to 18 months’ maintenance on chemo tablets,” said Emma. “Those little pills were no bigger than a mini M&M, I couldn’t believe something so small could make me feel so sick.”
Emma still vividly remembers her cancer journey as well as all the kids she met on the way. She was struck by the many different types of cancers and tumours that affected them.
“When I was going through treatment some of my friends survived their cancers and others unfortunately did not,” she said. “That's why it was so important to both Joseph and myself that we donate to The Kids' Cancer Project which invests in research into many types of cancers. We don't want other children with cancer to miss out on growing up.”
“I feel so incredibly lucky to have been able to experience some of life's most wonderful joys, such as getting married,” said Emma. “In my speech I pointed out that I wouldn’t have met half the people there if I had passed away as a teenager.”
“I was also lucky that science was so advanced when I was diagnosed,” Emma said. “I read that 20 years earlier, it would have been a death sentence.”
Sadly, cancer has invaded other aspects of Emma’s life, her mother and grandmother both had breast cancer, the BRCA2 gene runs in her family. Emma will be tested when she is in her thirties.
“Also, tragically one of my bridesmaids passed away from terminal cancer just three months before our wedding. Casey was only twenty-five,” said Emma.
The wishing well described by Emma as “beautiful and blingy” was set up at the Thoroughbred Park reception and brought out the generosity of their guests. People who had the least seemingly giving the most.
“People told me that giving felt very personal because they knew how much it meant to me,” said Emma. “I think what I said in the speech also resonated.”
So, with half the gifts donated to The Kids’ Cancer Project, how are the happy couple going to spend the other half?
“Well, it’s not very romantic,” said Emma. “We helped my dad with some of the costs of the wedding, so we are using the money to pay off our credit card! We wanted to start 2018 and our married life clear of debt so we can save for a house.”
Selfless Emma quickly turns the conversation back to the cause.
“I wish we could have given more,” she said. “I love the work The Kids' Cancer Project does in striving towards better treatments and survival outcomes for children with various types of cancer. We truly hope that our donation can help in some small way.”
“I say a little prayer at least once a day when I see the children playing at day care, ‘please God, may they never have to go through what I did'.”
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