Donation supports Pink Finns cancer support and Blue Datto Foundation for young drivers

Donation: Caitlin Lyons and Lauren Northen from Blue Datto, Glenis Wright from the Hawkesbury Gazette, Kym Burton from Pink Finns and Melissa Chapman. Picture: Geoff Jones
Donation: Caitlin Lyons and Lauren Northen from Blue Datto, Glenis Wright from the Hawkesbury Gazette, Kym Burton from Pink Finns and Melissa Chapman. Picture: Geoff Jones

“When I finished my cancer treatment I was in a worse situation than when I got diagnosed, because I thought ‘I am on my own now’. I had no chemotherapy or radiation protecting me, and it was up to my body to do its job and keep this thing away.”

Like many who have been diagnosed and treated for cancer, mum-of-four Melissa Chapman lives not only with the anxiety of the disease returning, but the fact she has changed as a person because of it.

To help Ms Chapman and many others in her situation, charity Pink Finns last year began a retreat for women going through cancer treatment to give them the tools to help them keep a positive and healthy mindset, as well as provide rest and recovery time.

This year’s two-night stay at Maraylya’s Billabong Retreat will take place in August, providing a specialised program helping up to 16 local women through their treatment and the aftermath through yoga, meditation, mindfulness, organic food, and expert speakers.

But with an average cost of $1,500 per person, Pink Finns relies on donations to offer the program. And that’s where the Gazette is urging local businesses to step in.

The newspaper recently won $10,000 at Hawkesbury Race Club’s sponsors’ luncheon, and the decision was made to put the majority of the cash back into the local community.

Sales manager Glenis Wright said $5,000 went to Pink Finns, $4,000 to the Blue Datto Foundation, and $1,000 went to rewarding the staff with a dinner.

“We didn’t want to keep the money as a business unit,” Ms Wright said. 

“The reason I selected these charities was that I had recently been to the Pink Tie Ball and although I knew about Pink Finns for years, I really didn’t understand how easy it is to help a lady going through treatment. 

“I have also got kids that drive and I think any programs that involve driver awareness is something really worthwhile.”

Set up by the Vassallo family in July 2014 following the death of 17-year-old P-plater Philip Vassallo, Blue Datto’s mission is to change the culture of young drivers by altering attitudes and behaviours.

Philip’s sister Lauren Northen explained the charity presents day-long programs to up to 120 Year 10 students at a cost of about $20 per student. 

“The money [donated by the Gazette] will be going into providing programs at … Hawkesbury High, Richmond High and Windsor High,” she said.

“Students are divided into groups that are led by peer mentors, which are undergraduate university students. In those small groups they do activities and have the base for discussion around attitude and behaviour change.

“It’s not about driving skills but about getting out of dangerous situations.”

The group receives much positive feedback from students, parents and teachers, and one recent email went a long way to show how important the program could be, Ms Northen said.

“We got the email from a student who had done [the program] the year before and he said on that particular weekend he used those strategies to get out of a situation that could have ended fatally,” she said. “To receive feedback like that is really powerful.”

Kym Burton from Pink Finns also said the feedback from the charity’s retreats had been “amazing”.

“It’s one thing to give them access to all this information but for them it’s a really nurturing and life changing experience,” she said. “They’re there with other women going through the same thing, and that means they can relax and feel comfortable to be themselves.

“It’s so much more than the speakers we give them, it’s the experience and the friendships forged.”

Pink Finns now helps women suffering from a range of cancers and Ms Burton said the need for such a service in the Hawkesbury was continuing to grow. 

On average, one to two new ladies per month come to the charity seeking support and up to 20 have approached the group over the last 12 to 18 months.

Support group meetings have grown from five attendees per month in 2010 to about 30 per month this year, she said. 

“By sponsoring someone to attend this retreat you are making more than a financial donation. You are enabling someone to nurture themselves and learn skills to help them through a very difficult time in their life,” Ms Burton said. 

To make a donation go to www.pinkfinss.com.au

Blue Datto has a number of events coming up, including its Impact the Screen, Impact a Life short film competition to encourage young drivers to consider how they can keep themselves and their mate safer on our roads.  

The Teenage Category, open to students aged 15 to 17, and The Young Adult Category, open to 18 to 25- year-old, is a platform for young people to communicate relevant road safety issues that affect them and their peers.

Entrants need to create a film between one to two minutes long based on this year’s theme, ‘Keep Your Mates Safe’ for a chance to win numerous prizes including $2500, a five-week film making course with Sydney Short Film School valued at $550, $500 cash prizes and JB-HiFi and Lemac gift vouchers.

Blue Datto is also putting together a team for the Massive Murray Paddle, and those interested in joining to either paddle or help with fundraising should contact the Blue Datto office or email colleen@bluedatto.org.au.

For more information about Blue Datto, visit http://bluedatto.org.au/.