The Kids’ Cancer Project held its annual Sporting Heroes Luncheon at Sydney Cricket Ground in September with a host of legends from various sporting codes present for the prestigious event.
This year, guests mingled with invited speakers Mark Bosnich, Bronte Campbell, Mike Whitney and Phil Kearns who shared insights into their well-known career highlights as well as revealing life after sport moments.
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Owen Finegan, CEO of the charity, hosts the annual event and set the tone with his wry sense of humour and masterful sledges.
“I’d prefer to call it friendly banter between the various codes,” said Finegan. “But seriously, it is always a fun afternoon where we get to share stories about what motivated our careers and sometimes what got us into trouble.”
Banter aside, at its heart, the event is a fundraiser held during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month to drive more dollars into scientific projects.
“The event had an ambitious goal this year - to raise $130,000 for research to find better treatments for kids with cancer,” said Finegan. “Unfortunately we fell short by $30,000, so I’m putting the challenge out there to anyone who can help us reach our target.”
Keynote speaker and clear star of the afternoon was Alex La Rossa, a 19-year-old Macquarie University student living with the long-term effects of his cancer treatment. The room of 300 were enthralled with his wit and wisdom.
“I’m a child with the remarkable ability of getting every single side effect they put in the fine print just in case it happens,” he said. “I’m not gonna lie, it is pretty impressive.”
Alex and his mum meet James Maloney, captain of Penrith Panthers. Later, Alex confessed to being overwhelmed to meet his sporting idol.
The teenager was a keen sportsman involved in both Union and League before being diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia at 13. The toxic treatment to cure him has had devastating side effects – leaving him with medical conditions more associated with the elderly.
“I’ve had two hip replacements, two strokes and now my right ankle has collapsed, so I have to get it fused and a metal plate put in on 5 December this year,” said Alex.
Alex told his story with such candour and without a hint of the self-pity he’d be entitled, that he not only received a standing ovation but he had the burliest attendees digging into their wallets.
Money raised on the day all went toward funding a research project lead by Professor Ricky Johnstone to help children with leukaemia.
Read more: Therapeutic targeting transcriptional addiction in paediatric leukaemias.
The Professor and his team at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre are working to find a set of genetic changes that drive cancer progression and therefore resistance to current therapy. He’s making headway, but more funds are urgently needed.
“Thanks to advances in science, it’s now possible to target these genes and turn the cancer’s strength into weakness,” said Johnstone. “By developing novel, more specific therapies, it will be possible to improve chances of survival for children with poor prognosis leukaemias.”
Donating to The Kids' Cancer Project will ensure this important work can continue, but there are myriad ways to give as Finegan explained.
“We’ve developed a partnership with DrinkScene who market YPura waters,” he said. “Cases of still or sparkling featuring the artwork of young cancer survivors can be bought for $24 and The Kids’ Cancer Project receive $8.”
“We also hold a corporate golf day which is great for team building or client entertainment,” said Finegan.
The Kids’ Cancer Project would like to thank the 2018 Sporting Heroes Luncheon event partners Caltex, SWMM, Ellerston Capital, Wingman Beer, Taylors Wines and the Sydney Cricket Ground along with all prize partners for their continued generosity.