Liz’s Year in Review

From little things big things grow…

As I reflect back on 2018 and look forward to 2019, I am reminded of the title of the Australian song by Paul Kelly, “from little things big things grow.” Our 5th year of our Foundation marked of course 5 years since Connor left us and inspired us to create a meaningful legacy in his ‘spirit’ and name. We began as a way to find our footing after the monumental loss of Connor. For me personally, it was a way to channel my grief into what I hoped was something positive and productive. Using Connor’s ‘spirit’-his quirky, kind, intelligent, fun, philosophical nature became our compass, our litmus test to gauge what we should do, who we should be. It has served us well and serves us still! Five years feels like a big milestone. Our young charity at 5, is in a transition, ready for new opportunities but doing so in a way that is responsible and staying true to Connor’s spirit.

Connor’s Run is the heart of our charity. The run Connor did only once (he hated running but ran that day for reasons bigger than that) has been immortalised into Australia’s (and I actually think the world’s!) largest event for pediatric brain cancer. In 2018, our 6th Connor’s Run we again sold out with over 4500 participants and 500 volunteers and raised a staggering 1 million dollars. This event feels like its reached its ideal size in participants and money raised. If we get this same result every year for the next 5, 10, 20 years – I’ll be thrilled. The support from the community, our sponsors, our corporate teams remains incredible. Our focus is to keep the ‘more fun than run’ vibe. If we can do that and raise a million dollars, then it’s a win, win, win.

Five years on and we have a much clearer vision and perspective on what needs to be done in the world of pediatric brain cancer, the part Australia can have and how our charity, operating in both Australia and the US can play an important role. Collaboration is instrumental in every aspect. Brain cancer is complicated, obviously! There are now 140 known subtypes of brain cancer. It won’t be cured by one person, or one lab, or one country. We are committed to funding research that is collaborative, between researchers, institutions, countries and funding bodies.

We recently announced that well known Australian TV presenter, Carrie Bickmore’s Foundation, Carrie’s Beanies 4 Brain Cancer provided a $535,000 grant to fund year’s three and four of our AIM BRAIN Project commitment. This is incredibly good news, meaning we can now focus our efforts on what we feel is ‘phase 2’ of AIM BRAIN-helping increase the availability and quality of clinical trials for Australian children. It is also an example of how charities can work together to make change happen, faster. Watch this space for hopefully more good (amazing) news in this area.

In early 2018 we introduced our Legacy Ambassadors. These are families touched by brain cancer and in a few cases, young survivors. We feel privileged to help carry on the legacy of young lives lost to this insidious disease (Pippa, Zoe, Marcus, Wyatt, Grace, Olivia, Alfie and Chloe) and be continually inspired by our young survivors (Harry and Olivia). Connecting with these families has been one of the highlights of 2018, despite the circumstances and we know together we can accomplish much together.

We’ve made much progress with our US connections this past year. Northwestern Mutual Life (NML) has come on as a major sponsor of Connor’s Erg. Our US event has grown to five university rowing teams this year and NML is providing a $25K grant which will be jointly given by us and Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, a large children’s cancer charity in the US. We’ve also joined with the CBTTC (Collaborative Brain Tumour Tissue Consortium) which provides free and open access data to assist research. CERN (Collaborative Ependymoma Research Network) remains an important partner. We are pleased to be funding an international ependymoma meeting in Washington DC in February, and I’m hosting an event at the Australian Embassy for 50 of the world’s top minds in brain cancer research. Please let me know if you are in the area, seriously, I’d would love to have a few of our supporters there to be inspired by these brains working hard to change the dire odds.

Over the past year we’ve strengthened our incredible partnerships. Our Connor’s Run major sponsors have shown fantastic support as have our 30 corporate teams. We’ve also had Mister Zimi and Metal Birds create and sell a product with all proceeds coming to us. We are entering our 5th year as the charity partner of the SMJFL, 11,000 kids #kickinggoalsforbraincancer. Recently, we’ve joined with Deloitte on an exciting new venture-something we believe is fresh, exciting and feels like us. We are incredibly grateful for this and all their support.

Our momentum, with you at our side, feels positive and we hope that from our little beginning- big, important, life changing things will grow.

Aeternum Fortis,
Liz Dawes