Can Assist president reflects on 20 years service

It was an at times emotional night of thanksgiving to the community for their unwavering support for Griffith Can Assist on Thursday.

Held in the foyer of the Griffith Regional Theatre, Can Assist’s acknowledgement of kindness and services was also an opportunity to salute president Olga Forner on 20 years of dedication.

A raft of local businesses and organisations were honoured at the event for their sponsorship of the annual City2Lake, which raises invaluable funds for the organisation to help cancer suffers, their carers and families with finances as they fight their battle.

Ms Forner welcomed all to the event, saying in her time with the charity to this point, over $2.2 million has gone towards helping patients in Griffith.

In a stirring salute to sponsors and supporters, several local cancer survivors shared their journeys and how Can Assist came to the helm to assist them and their families.

“It took me a while to reach out to Can Assist as I always thought there were people out there who needed the help more than me. But then I realised that is what the charity is for and that I needed that help too,” 30-year-old Natalie Ryan, who has battled Hodgkin’s Lymphoma for several years, told those gathered.

Mrs Ryan said she could not have reached this point without Can Assist, her husband and carer Andrew along with her parents who, she said, ‘have had to watch two of their three children fight this illness’.

“The help and care I was given from the beginning to this day has been phenomenal and the same was given to my brother Sam when he had cancer at the age of 16.”

She cited Can Assist as providing bridge to recovery, including the second time she was diagnosed almost a year ago.

“Again, I had numerous tests, months of chemo and ongoing trips to Sydney for scans and check-ups.

“I made it to remission again in March this year followed by a bone marrow transplant.

“This process could only be done in Sydney… this meant my husband was away from his new job so both of us had no income.

“Thankfully, Can Assist helped so much throughout my treatment, covering costs for any flights, fuel, accommodation, medications and more.

“Olga and the Can Assist team have done and continue to do such amazing things for our community. Their hard work is appreciated by everyone.

“And to all who sponsor, donate or help in any way, thank you.”

Carer Karen French recounted her and Ugo Fattore’s decades of experience with Can Assist, with Ugo diagnosed in 2001.

“That was on 9/11 – a day they say the world changed. It most certainly changed ours,” she said.

“In 2006 we found ourselves in Sydney for months not knowing what the future held.

“That’s when we met Olga and the team. I can honestly say they were our life-savers.

“Anyone who has been through the cancer journey knows that not only do you have to face the unknown, the last thing you need is the added pressure of wondering how you’re going to pay the costs of accommodation and travel to cities for life-saving treatment.

“It’s not just the financial support you get from Can Assist; it’s the emotional support too.

“Ugo and I thank you from the bottom of our hearts, yesterday, today and into the future.”

Ms Forner said she was humbled beyond words with the outpouring of gratitude as well as the tireless support of locals backing City2Lake and, thus, the organisation.

“The idea of the evening was to make sure we could acknowledge those who have helped us take care of our community,” she said.

“It was very moving to hear the stories from the speakers. It reinforced the importance of being able to help people during the most serious journey of their lives, as well as to give comfort and care.

“The only way we can assist is through the support and much needed donations from community who I thank dearly.”