Old Saints

We are grateful for the support of All Saints’ College (my old high school) and its alumni committee, the Old Saints Commitee, in helping to raise funds for the Scholarship.

I was recently invited to speak at a College assembly about the Scholarship, following which a group of Old Saints ran a lunchtime sausage sizzle and sold specially printed frisbees to raise money. Frisbees are still being sold (let us know if you would like one), but so far over $1,300.00 has been raised, which is a fantastic effort!

It was great to see the changes to the College since my graduation, and a few familiar faces still teaching.

Many thanks to Mary Thornton and Karyn Osmetti from the College, Petra Lushey and the rest of the Old Saints Committee, and all of the people who manned the sausage sizzle.

Below is an extract from my speech at the College assembly.

Good afternoon students and staff, and thank you for allowing me to speak at this assembly.

I am an Old Saint, and I have been invited here today, in what is the College’s first “Heritage Week”, to speak to you about my memories of my time at the College, my life since graduating, and about a special initiative that my wife and I have recently established in partnership with the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research – an initiative which is very close to my heart.

Next year will mark the fifteenth year since I graduated from the College.  The improvements which have occurred in that period are obvious and impressive.  My assemblies were held on the basketball court in what is now, I think, a dance studio.  There was no aquatic centre, and I vividly recall the many bus trips to Bicton pool for swim training after school.  What is now called “The Common” was then the far-less-glamorous “Bush Court”, and I’m fairly certain that the College kept bee hives just about where “Building L” now stands.  Some things, however, never change – the photography lab is still the photography lab.  You are all very privileged to enjoy such fantastic facilities.

I started at the College in Year 8, and I was a member of Stirling.  In my time at the College, I took the opportunity to sample as many different sporting activities as I could – including swimming, athletics, cross country, basketball, rugby, hockey, cricket and football teams – as well as a variety of academic extra-curricular activities such as the Solar Model Car Challenge, the Maths Games Camp and debating.

After graduating Year 12, I went on to university to study a double degree in Law and Science, where I met my wife Christie-Lee.  In 2007 we were married in the College chapel.  We now have three children together – Ethan (who turned three earlier this year) and twin girls Jessica and Charlotte (who are about nine months old).  Since graduating university, I have been working as a commercial lawyer at the firm of Solomon Brothers, where I’m currently a senior associate practising predominantly in property law.

In January last year, my son Ethan, who was then 20 months of age, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer known as ependymoma.  As you can imagine, this was a devastating turn of events for me, my wife and our families.  Since his diagnosis, Ethan has endured several surgeries (including a nine-hour operation to remove a brain tumour about the size of a fist) and chemotherapy at Princess Margaret Hospital, and radiation therapy at the Peter MacCallum Centre in Melbourne.  He has been forced to learn to sit, crawl and walk a second time over, and he is only now learning to eat again.  His language is severely delayed, and my wife and I are yet to hear the words that so many parents take for granted – “I love you”.  Because ependymoma tumours often recur, Ethan currently receives MRI scans under general anaesthetic every three months.  The magnitude of the challenges that Ethan faces on a daily basis is only matched by the courage and spirit with which he faces them. 

Childhood brain cancer is statistically the greatest non-accidental killer of children in Australia.  However, despite that fact, research is severely underfunded and survival rates over the past decade have reached a plateau well below that of other childhood cancers, such as leukaemia.  In addition, those children who do survive often face debilitating long-term health and developmental problems caused by the limited treatments currently available.  This is something that my wife and I refuse to accept.  We are determined to make a difference, and to that end we have, following discussions with Ethan’s paediatric neurosurgeon and neuro-oncologist, established an annual neurosurgery scholarship known as the Ethan Davies Scholarship for Brain Cancer Research in partnership with the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research.

The Scholarship funds research by a registrar-level doctor in the Telethon Institute’s brain cancer laboratory, working under the collaborative supervision of Ethan’s neurosurgeon and neuro-oncologist, with the aim of accelerating the development and introduction of new and improved treatments to prevent and better treat childhood brain cancer, particularly ependymoma.  The first recipient of the Scholarship, Dr Sasha Rogers, is relocating from Townsville next year to start this important work.

The Scholarship will be awarded on an annual basis and in order to fund it we need to raise about $150,000.00 every year.  I am pleased to announce that we have, through the generosity of friends, family and community and corporate supporters, raised about $230,000.00 since May last year.

The Scholarship’s second major annual fundraiser was held at the Telethon Institute last Friday evening, where we were honoured by the support of a number of Old Saints.  One of the themes of the night was that “it takes a village to raise a child”.  In Ethan’s case, the special people in his village include many doctors and specialists involved in his treatment, and loving friends and family. 

Each of us has our own village.  Our villages are made up of the community of people around us.  The College is a village in itself, made up of its students, parents, teachers and other staff, as well as the College’s former students, the Old Saints.  In the same way that the special people in Ethan’s village are critical in his journey, the relationships you develop with your peers during your time at the College may well form the basis of your future success in whatever endeavours you pursue as members of the wider community.  The support I have recently received from the Old Saints Committee in promoting and raising funds for Ethan’s Scholarship is an example of how this can work, and I congratulate Petra Lushey and the rest of the Committee for their efforts in forging stronger ties between the College’s Old Saints.

Leaping tall buildings

A brief follow-up to the earlier post on this year’s major fundraiser.

One of the themes for the night was written on the invitation: “leaping tall buildings”. For those who haven’t been following us on Facebook or Twitter, the event was a great success, raising over $16,000.00 through raffle tickets, auction items and donations. This money will go a long way towards leaping the tall building that is our $150,000.00 fundraising target for the second year of Scholarship!

A special thank you once again to everyone who supported the event by buying raffle tickets and bidding in the auctions, making cash donations, donating raffle and auction items, and putting together the cupcake stall to entertain the kids.

Below you’ll find a selection of photos taken on the night.

In the media

For those who are interested in having a read, there have been some nice features on the Scholarship and Ethan’s story recently.

The Melville Times ran a story on the Scholarship in the lead-up to the recent fundraiser at All Saints’ College, on page 3 of their 3 September 2013 newspaper. You can read this online via this link (you’ll need to register to access the website and search for back editions). The College also ran a story in their latest edition of The Dove (page 65).

We also got a plug in the latest edition of the Telethon Institute’s Under the Microscope magazine following this year’s major fundraiser, which is accessible online here.