Liz’s Year in Review
Happy New Year-an improvement over last year, we hope! What can I say, that hasn’t already been said, after the year that has been? None of us has escaped unaffected-we’ve all had to make sacrifices, adjust how we live and work and do the best we can.
In many ways it’s been a remarkable 12 months for the Robert Connor Dawes Foundation. I’m pleased to report we are still here (whew) and in many ways thriving. The way our RCDF team and community rose to the challenges COVID threw our way was an impressive, can-do, show of strength and creativity for young people with brain cancer. I hope how we’ve together navigated this past year is a promising indicator of our future ability to help change the odds of pediatric brain cancer.
Our 8th Connor’s Run, inspired by a run Connor (a reluctant runner) did once, just months before his diagnosis, was our best yet, raising an impressive $1.4 million-without having an actual mass gathering event! We reimagined Connor’s Run with a new theme of Your Way Any Day in September. This flexible format gave many of us in Melbourne (back in strict lockdown), and others throughout Australia, the US and other parts of the world, something positive we could focus on all month. People embraced their ‘I WILL’ commitment (inspired by Connor’s yoga affirmation ‘I WILL be awesome’) and took on all sorts of creative ways to support brain matters.
This year (Covid willing) we hope Connor’s Run can be a combo of these two events-keeping the Your Way Any Day throughout September while adding our traditional one day event here in Melbourne on 12 September. This format allows people to easily engage with us wherever they are, however they want, while still providing the much loved, #morefunthanrun live event.
The absolute highlight of last year was the increased participation and passion by the Brain Cancer Community. We had over 25 teams created in memory or support of someone affected by brain cancer, a big increase from previous years. Our new format meant we welcomed new teams from regional Victoria, Sydney, Brisbane and across Australia and the world. It was pleasing to see groups of young medical students from Adelaide and Hobart, joining our ‘original’ teams that participate every year. We were able to apply the money these teams raised to specific research, this felt like a meaningful connection, tying their efforts directly to work we are funding.
Our Legacy Ambassadors continue to be a very special to us. I realised several years ago that while we created our Foundation in memory and as a legacy to Connor, it was others affected that cared the most about our mission to change the dire survival odds for pediatric brain cancer. These Legacy Ambassadors (families and people directly affected by brain cancer), have joined our fundraising efforts through their communities. Their energy and commitment propel us forward each day to do better and work smarter. This group is integral to all we do and are. We hope to add more families on an ongoing basis-showing not only strength in numbers but strength in passion too.
We’ve recently added two key positions to our team. We’ve hired Stuart Forder as our first ever Events Manager. Our Foundation relies heavily on our events to raise our revenue and it felt like it was time to have someone (other than me) managing this. Stuart brings great experience and energy and it will be nice to have someone overseeing our events as their sole responsibility.
We’ve also hired Kim Wark as our first ever Research Manager. We are committing nearly a million dollars of funding to key projects each year and it felt like time to have a dedicated resource managing our funding commitments and industry relationships. Kim, who is exceptionally talented in this area, will also be tasked with managing our new Impactus initiative. Impactus is our program to identify and prioritise funding for Basic and Translational research across Australia and how it links with the rest of the world. It’s an exciting program, the first of its scope in Australia and one that we hope the entire brain cancer cohort can benefit from.
As I look ahead to the next 12 months, I am cautiously optimistic that things will slowly get back to our ‘new normal’. For us that means our commitment remains unwavering and we will continue to ebb and flow as needed to get the job done. I’m still in awe of the energy Connor has instilled in me, his spirit still shining bright and I’m humbled that he’s ignited others too. Brain cancer remains an incredibly challenging disease but if the last 12 months have shown me anything, it’s that we are not daunted by this, rather we are ready to take it on. With all of you by our side, we move forward with hope.