Armidale Can Assist president Carol Higginbottom tells Focus about their annual major fundraiser, to be held on Melbourne Cup Day. The venue has changed this year, to cater for greater attendance.
Tell us about Can Assist. How long you have been involved?
The Armidale Branch of Can Assist was formed in 1998 by a group of business and community people who had family members and friends with cancer, or had been on the journey themselves and knew the challenges facing country patients with a cancer diagnosis. Can Assist was formed in Sydney in 1955, to provide accommodation and support to country cancer patients who had to travel to the city for treatment.
This was initially provided through the Jean Colvin Hospital in Potts Point, where many of our local patients received wonderful care and support. This support has expanded to provide grass roots financial help, including transport, and household utility expenses such as power, gas and telephone.
We are not able to give direct money to patients, so we are responsible for organising the patients’ payments, i.e. paying their electricity accounts, gas bills, food vouchers, fuel vouchers, paying airfares, transport and whatever else is required. It is a very busy job for our Treasurer, Kerrie, and our executive who authorise each request; however, we do have a wonderful supportive team, and there is always a member on hand to help when necessary.
I joined Can Assist the year after it was formed, having been asked to join the organisation because of my workplace. At the time I was working in a medical practice and seeing first-hand the difficulties patients were experiencing with the costs associated with having cancer in a country area. Since then, we do have more services available in our area, but many patients still have to travel to bigger centres for surgery and treatment.
How do you raise your money, and what is it used for?
We are a registered charity and operate under the guidelines of The Australian Charities and Not for Profit Commission, with a very hardworking committee who meet monthly. We receive no government funding, so fundraising is our main avenue of funds.
We have been very blessed in the last couple of years to receive funding from many sporting bodies and service organisations, who have organised car rallies, golf days and charity auctions for us. Tour de Rocks has also been a wonderful support to our organisation and has helped with funding major costs involved with chemotherapy and medications not available on the PBS.
Can Assist is extremely grateful to our wonderful business and community friends for their continued support of our Organisation. They are always very supportive and generous.
For the last few years, your Melbourne Cup Luncheon has been a huge success. Tell us about this event and the change of venue?
Our major annual fundraiser has been our marquee Melbourne Cup Luncheon. This has traditionally been held in our garden in Uralla, and last year our numbers reached over 300. Because it has been catered for by our committee and friends, it had become too big to manage, so this year we are having the Luncheon in a marquee on the lawns of the Armidale Racecourse, and it will be catered for by Paul Mailfert from Jazzamataz Catering. In the past we have had wonderful support from our friends and neighbours and families, who have all been on board in the months and weeks leading up to this day.
We have members who are responsible for approaching business houses and groups for prizes and auction items, as well as a group who organise the menu, shopping and cooking, and then the wonderful friends who travel to be here and help on the day, often working into the small hours the night before doing flower decorations, bunting, etc. The marquee is decorated and set up the day before, with as many people as possible arriving to help.
We have had the support of one of our local schools, who have provided their hospitality and training team of 15 students who help with the serving and clean up. Our husbands and friends have been the bar waiting staff over the years, and we are looking forward to them being able to sit and enjoy the day this year.
With the change of venue, we can take more bookings, and tickets are now on sale at Concepts of Armidale in the mall – tickets are $60, which provides drinks and canapés on arrival, followed by a two course lunch, an amazing fashion parade by Lisa Hayne of Concepts of Armidale, a charity auction, sweeps, raffles, lucky door and of course, “Fashion on the Field” prizes. It will be the usual fun, stylish and happy day. We have usually raised around $20,000 in the past and of course, these funds are used for our local Cancer patients.
In Armidale we are very fortunate to have a dedicated Oncology Social Worker, Fiona Ord, who refers patients on to us. Any medical practitioner can refer patients, but we will often get them to still see Fiona, who then can assess their needs and provide support to the patient and their family.
We intend to keep this event going, as it is a wonderful way to support our cancer patients, as well as having a fun and rewarding day out with friends.
Thank you to Tracy and the Team at FOCUS for your wonderful support.
President, Armidale Can Assist.