Celebrating 30 years of Giving Hope and Saving Lives
2019 marks 30 years since a small group of families devastated by leukaemia banded together to form Bone Marrow Donor Institute. Their tireless work saw the creation of the Australian Bone Marrow Donor Registry, giving thousands of blood cancer patients a second chance at life.
Thirty years on and we continue our mission of Giving Hope and Saving the Lives of Australians living with cancer through life-saving blood cancer research and vital support services.
Dr Leonie Walsh
A message from the President
"2019 marks a very significant milestone for Fight Cancer Foundation and the important service it provides to individuals and families as they are navigating a very stressful period of treatment and recovery in their lives. This anniversary is also very significant for me on a personal level as it marks the 30th anniversary of my bone marrow transplant and my reason for engaging with and continuing to support this important and necessary cause."
- Dr Leonie Walsh, Fight Cancer Foundation volunteer president.
A Brief History of Fight Cancer Foundation
1989 - 2019: Major Milestones
To demonstrate the incredible work that has been achieved by the Fight Cancer Foundation community over the past 30 years, we will be adding a historical milestone each month in 2019.
In 2008, Fight Cancer Foundation expanded our accommodation services by opening a new accommodation centre in Hobart. In 2013, a purpose built centre in Albury–Wodonga followed.
With the addition of these new facilities, we now have 47 rooms or apartments available to seriously ill people from right across Australia each night.
Fight Cancer Foundation's patient accommodation centres provide a comfortable and welcoming home away from home, relieving patients and their families of some of the financial and emotional burden caused by cancer.
We’re proud to now be expanding our Albury–Wodonga centre, which will see the addition of 10 accommodation units, ensuring we are able to meet increasing demand for accommodation services.
In 2015 our education support program launched at The Sydney Children's Hospital, Randwick and the following year at The Women and Children's Hospital, Adelaide.
This expansion meant our education support programs were now operating in four major paediatric hospitals across Australia, greatly increasing the reach and impact of the programs.
Today, they are accessed by children from ACT, NSW, NT, SA, TAS, VIC and WA. Learning sessions are delivered in a variety of ways including face-to-face, bedside and online, ensuring children at all stages of treatment and recovery have access.
In 2008 the Bone Marrow Donor Institute officially re-branded to Fight Cancer Foundation.
This decision was made due to the broadening scope of work by the Bone Marrow Donor Institute, including patient accommodation and education support for children with cancer. The new brand – Fight Cancer Foundation – better reflected our new direction and resonated more strongly with our increasing supporter base.
Bo Bear was launched as Fight Cancer Foundation's mascot during Community Awareness week in 1994. Bo Bears were sold nationally as soft toys and as lapel pins to raise funds and awareness as part of the recruitment of bone marrow donors.
Bo Bear remains a special part of the Fight Cancer Foundation family to this day. He is especially good at bringing joy to children’s oncology ward during Footy Colours Day season, as well as making special appearances at Red Ball Melbourne and various community fundraising events throughout the year.
Fight Cancer Foundation’s first patient accommodation centre opened in 2003 in Melbourne. Jointly funded by the Victorian Government, five Rotary Districts and Fight Cancer Foundation fundraising, BMDI Rotary House provides 13 apartments close to specialist medical treatment.
BMDI Rotary house is available to cancer and blood disorder patients, but it is especially suitable for bone marrow transplant patients. It offers the safety of self-contained apartments complete with all the comforts of home and specifically designed and equipped to reduce the risk of infection for those with severely compromised immune systems.
Our first accommdation centre has been a beacon of hope for thousands of families over the last 16 years. Thank you to all those who have been involved in ensuring this much needed facility has continued to provide a home away from home for families when they need it most.
Each year more than 950 children and young people are diagnosed with cancer in Australia. The ensuing treatment and recovery can result in months, if not years away from their regular classroom.
In response to this, Fight Cancer Foundation launched an education support program in 2005, which was delivered in partnership with The Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne.
The program was designed to enable learners to maintain their education with one-on-one tuition, individually designed lesson plans and the use of technology to connect the learner in hospital with their regular classroom.
The first year saw 30 students enrolled in the program. Since 2005, the program has expanded and is now in four major paediatric hospitals across Australia, with over 1000 young learners living with cancer enrolling each year.
In September 1996, Fight Cancer Foundation (then Bone Marrow Donor Institute) established the BMDI Cord Blood Bank. It was only the second public cord blood bank in Australia.
Working closely with the Australian Bone Marrow Donor Registry, the BMDI Cord Blood Bank sources and provides cord blood for patients needing a stem cell transplant for treatment of blood cancers and other life-threatening illnesses.
Since 1996 13,905 cord blood units have been banked. Of the banked units, 559 have been released, providing a second chance at life for people around the world.
The BMDI Cord Blood Bank operates as a partnership between Fight Cancer Foundation, the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and The Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne.
In May 1994, then Premier of Victoria, Jeffrey Kennett AC, officially opened the Rotary Bone Marrow Research Centre in Melbourne.
The research centre was funded by Fight Cancer Foundation (then Bone Marrow Donor Institute) in partnership with Rotary District 9800, and was gifted to The Royal Melbourne Hospital.
The centre signalled a new and exciting era for Fight Cancer Foundation. Housed within the building was the Foundation's head office, a tissue typing laboratory, donor testing area and a research wing. The centre became a hub for the advancement of treatment methods for blood cancers and related blood disorders.
Still fully operational today, Fight Cancer Foundation has called The Rotary Bone Marrow Research Centre 'home' for nearly 25 years.
Faces of Fight Cancer Foundation
Fight Cancer Foundation is where it is today thanks to an incredible community of dedicated people who have given so much to the fight against cancer. More familiar faces will be added below over the next six months. Stay tuned!
Fay Duncan AM
Fight Cancer Foundation founding member Fay Duncan AM played a leading role in the planning, fundraising and delivery of a range of programmes including treatment, research, accommodation and education. Her dedication and hard work has helped countless people living with leukaemia and blood cancers to have a better chance at life.
John was a founding member of Fight Cancer Foundation and was a driving force behind the establishment of the Australian Bone Marrow Donor Registry, which has given people in Australia and around the world a second chance at life. John was Chairman and President of Fight Cancer Foundation, which he guided passionately for 20 years.
Leonie first become involved with Fight Cancer Foundation after she underwent a bone marrow transplant in 1989 and after recuperating, joined the Bone Marrow Donor Institute Board. She served from 1992 to 1995 and later re-joined the Board in 2009. Leonie was elected Chairman in 2015.
Eric has been the Managing Director of Fight Cancer Foundation since 2006. Prior to that Eric was a volunteer board member for nine years. Eric also represents Fight Cancer Foundation on the BMDI Cord Blood Bank Management Committee.
CureTOUR was founded in 2010 in memory of Jason Mahoney, who passed away after a battle with Leukaemia. The bi-annual bike ride sees a group of community fundraisers cycle between Geelong and Adelaide. Since its inception, CureTOUR have raised more than $200,000 to support Australians living with cancer.
Barb has contributed to the fight against cancer in a number of extraordinary ways over the last 20 years. Her roles have included volunteering at our Geelong recycle shop, setting up and running the Geelong Bone Marrow Donor Branch and promoting Footy Colours Day within Geelong and surrounding regions.
Ray and Marie Schembri
Ray and Marie Schembri from Top Gear Cleaning have been avid supporters of Fight Cancer Foundation’s Melbourne accommodation centre for 12 years. From supplying cleaning products free of charge, to donating two credit cards for families who require financial assistance, to donating a car for families to use, Ray and Marie continue to make a real difference to Australian families living with cancer.
Cliff and Betty Benson
Cliff and Betty Benson are Fight Cancer Foundation’s longest serving volunteers having been involved since 1989. Over the last 30 years Cliff and Betty have supported Fight Cancer Foundation in a number of ways, including volunteering at our Geelong recycle shop and running our fundraising stalls at The Royal Melbourne Hospital.
Kate has been involved with Fight Cancer Foundation for 12 years. She was appointed to the Board in 2014 after joining the Development Board in 2008. As well as being a volunteer Director, Kate is Chair of Red Ball Melbourne’s committee, helping to ensure Red Ball Melbourne remains a must attend event on the Melbourne social calendar.
As a lead member of the Albury Wodonga Accommodation Centre Steering Committee, Alf oversaw a number of major fundraising and development projects for our Albury Wodonga accommodation centre, Hilltop. Now a member of Hilltop Board of Management, Alf works tirelessly to ensure Hilltop offers accommodation of the highest possible standard for families living with cancer.
Frogmore Creek Winery
Frogmore Creek began supporting Fight Cancer Foundation in 2014 by hosting and sponsoring The Little Red Luncheon - our signature fundraising event in Tasmania. The team at Frogmore Creek have continued to increase their level of support by hosting further events and forming an important part of our Tasmanian Events Committee.
Susan has been a volunteer at our Melbourne accommodation centre for about three years. Susan, a published author, spends time with the children saying at the centre, reading with them, conducting science experiments and spending time with them to give them a break from an emotionally difficult time.
Chelsea Lewis, a teacher at Malvern Central School in Melbourne, has been an avid supporter of Footy Colours Day since 2014. Each year since then she has organised an amazing Footy Colours Day celebration at her school, raising more than $54,000 over the last five years.
Thank you to all of our loyal supporters, old and new, for making a difference in the fight against cancer.
To our Patrons, Ambassadors, volunteer directors and committee members, office staff, corporate partners, volunteers and regular financial supporters, you have ensured that families supported by Fight Cancer Foundation for the past 30 years haven't had to face cancer alone.