HOW IT ALL BEGAN…
1975 was a very difficult year for the Kasses family from Childers, Queensland, and the Lough family from Wollongong, New South Wales.
Jack and Annette Kasses’ daughter Helen, and John and Margaret Lough’s son Robbie, had been diagnosed with leukaemia and life had been thrown into chaos. Helen and Robbie were receiving treatment at the Prince of Wales Children’s Hospital (now Sydney Children’s Hospital) in Randwick, Sydney – a highly-regarded centre for the treatment of children with cancer.
The Kasses’ and Loughs were appalled by the lack of research into childhood cancer. Through discussions with other parents of children being treated for cancer – Tina and George Georgiou, Les and Jean Parry, Isabel and Alex Kettle, Bill and Joan Curtis and others – an idea began to take shape. If all concerned parties were to join forces, perhaps something could be done to remedy this situation. Specifically, if sufficient funds could be raised in the community, perhaps they could set up their own research centre. At the hospital, social worker Margaret French, head paediatric oncologist Darcy O’Gorman Hughes and fellow clinician Marcus Vowels were equally keen on the idea, willingly contributing their time and expertise and actively encouraging the families of children in their care to become involved in the project.
On 2 May 1976, Dr O’Gorman Hughes and Dr Vowels, Margaret French, John Lough, Les and Jean Parry, Jack and Annette Kasses and Gerald Mouncher met at the Kasses’ home to discuss how they might go about setting up a foundation to raise funds for the construction of a research centre. While all who met were optimistic about what they might achieve, none could possibly have anticipated that 25 years later, an internationally-renowned medical research institute employing 60 people would exist as a result of their efforts. Exciting times were ahead.
Having decided on a name for their new creation – The Children’s Leukaemia and Cancer Foundation – Jack Kasses, John Lough and the group of parents and doctors they had gathered together, set about working out what form their Foundation might take. The main objectives were to raise funds to establish a research centre at the Prince of Wales Children’s Hospital, and to provide grants to support other worthwhile research projects throughout Australia.
Preliminary enquires into the likely cost of constructing a research laboratory at the hospital produced an estimate of $200,000.
However, before any fundraising could begin, the Foundation had to be legally established.The Children’s Leukaemia and Cancer Foundation was registered as a legally constituted charitable organisation in August of 1976, and the first executive committee was elected.The Foundation’s first fundraising event was the premiere screening of the film ‘The Fourth Wish’ in September 1976. Over 100 tickets were sold at $15 per double, raising a profit of $600 for the Foundation. Also in the first few months came an offer from the West Ryde Lions Club to adopt the Foundation as its charity – an arrangement that raised $30,000 dollars for the Foundation and marked the beginning of a strong and productive relationship with Lions Australia that still continues to this day.
The Ladies’ Committee was established in 1977. Mothers whose children had been diagnosed with cancer joined to meet other women in a similar situation. They supported each other and raised funds for research and family services.
Thirty-five years later, the Ladies’ Committee consists of over thirty active members, five of whom are amazingly dedicated founding members. Annette Kasses, Anna Bacci, Tina Georgiou, Madeleine Doutreband and Gwenneth Gibson, are still active on the committee today. They have worked with a significant number of committee members, their ages ranging from as young as 9 to mid 90’s!
Through a variety of fundraising activities, including trivia nights, raffles, fashion parades, fairs, street stalls, Entertainment Book sales and afternoon teas, our dedicated group of volunteers continues to work tirelessly towards improving the outcomes and saving the lives of all children suffering from cancer.
The commitment of the Ladies is best summed up by Anna whose daughter Marianne died at the age of ten after a three year battle with leukaemia.
“I will keep raising money until they find a cure or until I take my last breath”.
Since its inception the Ladies’ Committee has raised approximately $700,000 for childhood cancer research. In the past two years we have proudly purchased thirteen pieces of vital research equipment for the new Lowy Cancer Research Centre.
All our Ladies are greatly encouraged by the progress that has been made but know that there is still much to do. Research is the key to eliminating this terrible disease and so the funds that we raise are used specifically to purchase much needed research equipment.
Children’s Cancer Institute (CCI)
Children’s Cancer Institute for Medical Research (CCI) is the only independent medical research institute in Australia devoted to research into the causes, better treatments, prevention and cure of childhood cancer. Their vision is to save the lives of all children with cancer and eliminate their suffering. Founded in 1976 CCIA opened its first laboratory in 1984. The Institute, located at the Lowy Cancer Research Centre at the University of New South Wales, now employs over 170 staff and students, including more than 120 scientists. Research at CCIA comprises a multifaceted approach to improving the outcome of childhood cancer sufferers. The research programs focus on translational research aimed at defining and achieving improved treatment and survival rates for children with cancer. CCIA is affiliated with the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and Sydney Children’s Hospital (Randwick).
For more info: www.ccia.org.au