A record crowd turned out at Campbelltown Athletics Stadium to walk the 24 Hour Fight Against Cancer Macarthur past its 4 million dollar mark and pay tribute to its founder Fred Borg OAM.
“This is a special day for a special man, an old friend of mine, a great mate that we all care about”, said Uncle Ivan Wellington in his Welcome to Country, putting everyone’s feelings into words.
“It’s our first year without our dear Fred and we miss him terribly. But today has been an honour to see the tributes that people have delivered for Fred”, said Sue McGarrity, the charity’s Deputy Chairperson.
And thousands of locals proudly sporting their orange T-shirts held up large coloured prints of my photograph of Fred (donated by Snap Printing) and raised a raucous cheer!
One of Macarthur’s finest sons, Fred lost his battle last December “to a recurrence of the very disease that he fought so hard against personally and for all of us”, said Cr Warren Morrison, who took over the reigns as Chairperson and has done an absolutely spectacular job seeing this year’s event calendar through in a way that does Fred’s legacy proud.
Over countless cups of Dilmah tea and Aldi’s pikelets, Fred never tired of telling me how he broke away from another charity 13 years ago only to ensure that “every dollar raised in Macarthur stayed in Macarthur”. This he achieved by gathering around him a committee (all volunteers) and group of sponsors who shared his passion for the cause, “so locals do not have to leave the region to get the treatment they need.”
“Coming here today and seeing all these people appreciate what Fred had started and what has been achieved, it’s very heart-warming”, said Joe Borg, Fred’s brother.
Funds raised in last year alone provided state of the art technology in the form of cooling caps to prevent hair loss during chemotherapy, complementary therapies, wellness enhancing classes, a 12-seater patient transport bus to Campbelltown Hospital, Camden Hospital and the palliative care units, a fulltime Cancer Care co-ordinator and more.
“Such a significant year for us all. And as we head into the night time Reflection ceremony, I don’t think there’s going to be a dry eye in the house”, said Josh Webster from C91.3, a longtime supporter who compered a touching ceremony characterised by candle tributes and a silent lap in memory of loved ones and friends who lost the fight… and Fred.
“The motivation to get up and go this morning was even greater than ever before. And to see everyone out there doing exactly what Fred would’ve wanted us to do and pushing harder to make this bigger and better than it ever was before, that really lifts my spirits”, said Mathew Borg, Fred’s grandson, who filled his pa’s place in the announcer’s booth with emotion and pride.
“And it really brings some peace to me because it’s hard without Fred, but it’s not the end without Fred and THAT’S really important!”
(Brian Laul is the founder of Oz Funland, Good Morning Macarthur and Secretary of the Children’s Festival Organisation of Australia. He’s passionate about fostering multicultural relations at a community grassroots level.)