Tag Archive for: Griffith

Griffith has honoured the president of its popular charity group Can Assist, who celebrated 20 years in the role last week.

Olga Forner, 79, has been the face of the local organisation, which has raised an estimated $2.5 million during the time she has held the top job.

“I’ve received great support from all the branch members, particularly this year,” she said. “They’ve been amazing to have – that’s why we’ve maintained such a strong impact in the community.”

Griffith Can Assist runs fundraisers to provide support to cancer sufferers and their families, particularly those who have to travel long distances to access health care.

At a get-together at the Griffith Regional Theatre on Thursday (2 November), the many businesses and individuals who have supported Can Assist over the years were also thanked.

The main annual fundraiser for Can Assist is the City2Lake, a fun run inspired by Sydney’s City2Surf.

This year’s event, held in September, raised $57,000 for local cancer sufferers.

Co-ordinator Cheryl Wood, marketers Belinda Johns and Rosie Taprell and volunteers Geoff Bortolin, Anthony Martinello, Rebecca Rosato, Sharon Martinello and Sonia Callipari were all congratulated for the many hours they volunteered to make the run a success.

“This was our chance to offer our personal thank you to the people supporting us on a regular basis and to acknowledge their kindness,” Ms Forner said.

Attending Thursday’s event was Chris Brugger, who has battled blood cancer for 15 years. Ms Forner has described him as her “miracle”.

“My journey started in 2008, I was young, I had a young family,” Mr Brugger said. “The next 10 years I was in and out of hospital in Sydney. I was working, then not working; it was hard with my family, mortgage, operation, medication, doctors’ bills and expenses. But Olga was there to help. Without Can Assist and its supporters, I don’t know where I’d be.

“In 2017, I had a real bad year. Halfway through they told me I had 12 months to live, they told me to get my affairs in order. But six years later, things are great, that comes down to all the support I’ve had – we are so lucky to have Olga.”

Can Assist dream team: Merle Cole, Olga Forner, Margaret McCann, Diana Brown and Pam Young.

The Can Assist Griffith Branch president said she had seen many miracles in her 20 years, and a number of those who were told they should be dead by now were able to share a drink with her at Thursday’s party.

“Those who have got strong positive outlooks come through with the best results,” Ms Forner said.

Approaching her 80th birthday, Ms Forner called on younger people to step up and keep the charity going.

“We need volunteers; we would love more. We have great friendship and good harmony and we do have fun, even though the work we do is challenging,” Ms Forner said.

“If we didn’t have the community behind us, we would not have been able to do this – all the money we raise remains in our local community, none of it is sent away.”

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.”

At just 41 years of age Bernie, father of 4 children under 10 and husband of Samantha, was diagnosed with brain cancer.

It all started back in 2017 with bad headaches. After multiple trips to Griffith Base Hospital (70km one way), it was the local doctor who ordered the cat scan that identified an urgent need for further investigation. – Additional scans conducted at Wagga Wagga Base Hospital (170km one way) revealed a brain tumor, so Bernie was rushed to Sydney (630km one way) via air ambulance. Surgery took place the next day.

The rollercoaster continued; 8 weeks of radiotherapy, followed by regular trips back to Sydney; initially every month, then every 2 months, and then tapering off to twice annually. A second tumor was identified at the end of 2021 and a third tumor at the end of 2022. Another surgery, another two sets of radiotherapy – all conducted in Sydney, almost 7 hours away from his hometown.

Bernie receiving treatment at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney.


With the exception of the two surgeries Bernie needed to source non-hospital accommodation in Sydney on every trip.

Distance from treatment magnifies the impact of cancer on every level – financially, physically and psychologically.

“Sam (Bernie’s wife) and Izzy (youngest daughter) stayed with me in Sydney over my first surgery…but by the time of my second surgery all the kids were at school and, with my income being so unpredictable Sam needed to go back to work. It was just so daunting; I didn’t know what to ask the doctors and I didn’t remember all the details, especially when it came to the side effects. The costs were piling up – huge out of pockets with radiotherapy, scans costing near $1,000 each time, then travel and accommodation.

“Can Assist have been supporting me from the early days and they took away that initial financial burden …they were the first to help, took away those pain points early, it just meant so much to me. Having the support of my community through Can Assist goes way beyond the dollars …it was like they were in it with me” Bernie Star, Coleambally

Can Assist continues to support Bernie. “Cancer isn’t a one stop fix and nor are we …. we continue to support our clients for as long as they need usSue Hardy, President and Patient Liaison Officer, Can Assist Coleambally

Bernie and his family today, still smiling, but it’s been a long road.






‘The Song That Griffith Built’

We have to thank Glenn Starr and Griffith musician Rob Fattore for coming up with the idea for ‘Something In The Water’ while they were on their way to a gig.
Thank you Triple M Riverina MIA, a portion of the profits go directly to Can Assist Griffith , so grab your copy now!



Record numbers turn out for Griffith Coffee and Cars event. About 500 people attended the Expatriates Auto Club event where more than 115 “stunning machines” were on display.  The event raised about $2,500 for Griffith Can Assist, and organiser Sharon Brown said it was the most successful Coffee and Cars fundraiser ever held in Griffith.

Community spirit is alive and well within Griffith City Council, with the annual staff fundraising initiative helping three local charities.

On Tuesday, 8 December 2020, special morning tea was held to present Griffith CanAssist, Griffith Suicide Prevention & Support Group and Country Hope with cheques for $500 each.

Griffith Can Assist President, Olga Forner said, the money would be used to support local cancer patients and their families.

“We are extremely grateful for this donation,” Mrs Forner said.

“Every little bit helps, especially this year as we haven’t been able to fundraise.”