The year of the brain and how to stay forward

Connor’s Mum, Founder and CEO, Liz Dawes reflects on a huge 2017 for brain matters.

As I’ve done the beginning of each year since we began our charity four and a half years ago, I like to reflect on the year just passed and more importantly, set our sights on the opportunities that lie ahead.

Our family is from Wisconsin and our children can tell you one of the first bits of Wisconsin trivia to learn is our state motto: forward. I think of this often, especially when people comment we must be proud of all we’ve done in such a short time. Of course, but I’ve also been raised to look ahead. Where to from here? I am pleased we have built a strong foundation that I hope will take us from strength to strength, but I am increasingly aware that our success has given me greater insight on the magnitude of our mission and how much needs to be done.

This past year, bringing the AIM BRAIN Project to fruition was a watershed moment for our young charity.  AIM BRAIN will ensure that every child diagnosed with brain cancer in Australia and New Zealand will receive the best diagnostic review of their tumour. This testing will reveal the true nature of the disease and ensure proper treatment protocol, which could mean eliminating the need for radiation in some cases. This gives families the knowledge of exactly what their child is facing.  We worked incredibly hard with ANZCHOG’s subcommittee on the brain and spine to get this over the line and it was almost surreal when the Federal Government stepped up as our funding partner, matching our $1 million commitment and recognising us by name in the year’s federal budget.

The Federal Government didn’t stop there, forming a Brain Cancer Roundtable in August with the best minds in the business in Australia and globally.  I was grateful to be part of this group, which was in large part a response to the strong collective voice of the brain cancer community.  This led to the announcement of the Brain Cancer Mission, a $100 million commitment to brain cancer over 10 years.  A partnership between the government, private philanthropy and charities, like ourselves.  We will work hard to ensure paediatric brain cancer receives the funding it deserves as the country’s #1 cancer killer of young people.

Connor’s Run has continued to be a special and successful event, this past year, our fifth, raising close to $800,000!  We will continue to work hard this year to ensure it remains ‘more fun than run’. At 4,000 participants, we feel we’ve reached our ideal.  We hope our global runs continue to grow.  Seeing our Connor’s Run T’s worn around Bayside and the world has been a source of continued pride for our family.

This year we will be exploring new opportunities to expand our reach both in Australia and the U.S.  Having our charity in both Australia and the States allows us to make an impact in both countries and globally.  We are committed to helping collaborations happen to encourage better and faster research that will yield positive change.

I have been awed and humbled by the advocacy of parents, like myself who have lost a child to brain cancer and know together we can make greater gains.  This coming year we will be highlighting our new Legacy Ambassadors: parents like Scott and I and young survivors who have been touched by this disease and want to make a difference.
We will also continue engaging young people, through Brain Week and other activities.  Their involvement is at the heart of who we are – young people coming together to help young people.

Marek Wolski, who co-founded the charity with Scott and I, and has led our marketing brilliantly and generously after nearly five years is stepping aside to allow him time to focus on his new family.  He has been invaluable to all we do and are.  Working with someone so talented and big hearted has given me huge insight and honouring his vision will be paramount to the way we move forward. I will never be able to properly thank Marek for all he has done and I will be forever indebted to his helping us create a meaningful legacy in Connor’s name.

Looking ahead to 2018 I’m excited to get started!  There is much to be done but with all of you by our side I know we can continue to move ‘forward’ in a positive way to make real change against paediatric brain cancer.

Aeternum Fortis,
Liz Dawes
Connor’s Mum, Founder and CEO