McGrath Foundation's Pink Up Your Town campaign calls for volunteers

HAPPY TO HELP: A cheerful smile from a supporter at Pink Up Mudgee last year. Photo: McGrath Foundation
HAPPY TO HELP: A cheerful smile from a supporter at Pink Up Mudgee last year. Photo: McGrath Foundation

Picture this - you've been in hospital for your first round of chemotherapy in a town a few hours from home.

The following morning you awake early and take a walk down the main street. Everything is pink - from the shop displays to decorations on trees to bunting on lamp posts. It's quite simply a stunning sight.

Narrabri wife and mother, Karen Kirkby, experienced this wonder for herself last year in October when she was sent to Mudgee for cancer treatment.

"I was just astounded at how pretty it was, and it took a while to register that all the shops, everything was pink," she said.

I have said the doctors, surgeons and oncologists saved my life, but the breast care nurses saved my sanity.

Karen Kirkby, Narrabri

The McGrath Foundation is calling on communities across Australia to show the power of pink this October and take part in the annual Pink Up Your Town campaign to help families experiencing breast cancer, just like Mudgee did in 2020.

To get involved visit the website, pinkupyourtown.com.au to find out more about pinking up your town with help from the McGrath Foundation.

Karen, a plant pathologist, was diagnosed in July 2020 with breast cancer. After treatment over several months, she received the all-clear just two weeks ago.

"I'm now in the stage of preventing reoccurrence, and I'm loving it," she said.

This includes regular exercise, eating well, and taking a hormone-blocking treatment once a month for the rest of her life.

"My wonderful breast care nurse, Wendy Allen, administers that for me, and she also does lymphodema massage," Karen said.

Karen's experience with McGrath Breast Care Nurses through her ordeal and that magical spring morning in Mudgee sowed the seed in her to engage her home in the Pink Up Your Town campaign.

SUPPORT: A vibrant scene from Pink Up Mudgee last year. Photo: McGrath Foundation

SUPPORT: A vibrant scene from Pink Up Mudgee last year. Photo: McGrath Foundation

It won't just be Narrabri having its first PUYT experience this year either - Karen has rounded up volunteers and enthusiastic support from nearby Wee Waa and Boggabri.

"There was unanimous support," Karen said. "It will be Pink Up Namoi (the region). I'm really happy it's a collective of these three small regional towns."

Pink Up Namoi is set to be quite the spectacle. Aside from the recognisable hue that will cover the towns, there will also be awareness and information sessions involving visiting medical specialists, support sessions for family and friends, a Pink Up Your Pooch family-friendly walk, and information stands at local markets.

"Our main event in Narrabri will be to close the main street and run a pink street dinner party," Karen said.

She said she was looking forward to seeing the community come together for such a vital cause.

Meanwhile, in the town of trees, Berry on the south coast of NSW, Deb Woolford is gearing up for her third year of Pink Up Your Town as committee chair.

"I had been on the McGrath Foundation email list for several years and would receive emails about volunteers needed at different functions - but they were always too far away for me to participate in," she said.

"When I received the email asking would I be interested in pinking up my town, I thought, 'this is something I can do to help others'. I had just lost my sister to cancer and needed a project to keep me busy."

Over the past two years, Berry has raised $70,000. Unfortunately, last year, they could not hold any events but still found other ways to raise money - selling handmade face masks and holding raffles.

EAGER TO HELP: Pink Up Your Town Berry organiser Deb Woolford. Photo: Pink Up Your Town Berry

EAGER TO HELP: Pink Up Your Town Berry organiser Deb Woolford. Photo: Pink Up Your Town Berry

Deb said plans were already underway for this year's event, and she was confident it would be a huge success.

Deb admitted when she first took on the role, she was overwhelmed at times. "But as time went on, I realised when you feel passionate about making a difference to someone's life, then anything is possible," she said.

"I have a committee of six dedicated friends who grew up together in Berry, and we all work so well together and have fun at the same time.

"We encourage everyone in our community to be a part of Pink up Berry, and each year more are becoming involved."

The committee has prizes for best-decorated home and shop and last year the town was awash in a sea of pink.

I realised when you feel passionate about making a difference to someone's life, then anything is possible.

Deb Woolford, Berry

"The PUYT initiative is a way to make a difference to those experiencing breast cancer and support their families - which to me is very important," Deb said.

"I lost my mum to breast cancer 19 years ago, and back then, there was no support - the breast care nurses provided by the McGrath Foundation do an amazing job."

Both Karen and Deb encouraged people to sign up and get involved with PUYT, where they live.

"Anyone can have a go," Deb said. "You will meet so many caring people and make new friends. You will have fun, and most importantly, you will make a difference in someone's life."

"The value I personally received from the breast care nurses can't be understated," Karen said. "I have said the doctors, surgeons and oncologists saved my life, but the breast care nurses saved my sanity."

PINK PALS: Even the fire and rescue department took part in Pink Up Mudgee last year. Photo: McGrath Foundation

PINK PALS: Even the fire and rescue department took part in Pink Up Mudgee last year. Photo: McGrath Foundation

Pink Up Your Town is a major annual fundraising campaign for the McGrath Foundation. It calls on communities big or small to turn their town pink to raise vital funds for specialist McGrath Breast Care Nurses while also creating a visual show of support for local people going through breast cancer.

McGrath Foundation ambassador and director Tracy Bevan said after the toll of 2020, it was vital to get back out into local communities.

"Pink Up Your Town is such a fun initiative to get involved with and you can do so knowing you really are making an impact," she said.

"Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia, so our McGrath Breast Care Nurses are needed more than ever. It is through the support of communities around Australia that we're able to continue funding McGrath Breast Care Nurses in areas that need them most."

Pink Up Your Town is such a fun initiative to get involved with and you can do so knowing you really are making an impact.

Tracey Bevan, McGrath Foundation

Now in its sixth year, more than 152 towns have taken part in Pink Up Your Town during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, helping raise over $1.7 million.

In the past, towns and suburbs have shown their support in many creative ways, from Orange re-naming itself 'Pink' as an April Fool's prank to gala balls, pink race days and main street shops competing for the pinkest window displays.

"Local champions who pink up in towns across the country will receive plenty of support from the McGrath Foundation's team to inspire their neighbours, businesses, schools and community groups to take on the fundraising challenge," Tracy said.

Register to pink up today at pinkupyourtown.com.au.

DRESS UPS: A group of pink bowlers enjoy a game for Pink Up Your Town. Photo: Supplied

DRESS UPS: A group of pink bowlers enjoy a game for Pink Up Your Town. Photo: Supplied

This story McGrath Foundation wants you to think about going pink this October first appeared on The Canberra Times.