Melbourne out in force for Sony Foundation's River4Ward
Date: 18 May 2023
Sony Foundation, the charity arm of the Sony group of companies, united the media and entertainment industry at Melbourne’s River4Ward event and raised $651,000 to support young Australians with cancer from regional areas.
Tess McMurtrie was told she had sarcoma cancer at the age of 21 as a uni student who was living out of home and liked to travel. Two and a half years on, Tess has endured the ongoing hardship of multiple rounds of chemotherapy, emergencies in the ICU and an above the knee amputation, all while living hours away from her cancer hospital in Melbourne.
Tess, who will share her story today at Sony Foundation’s River4Ward fundraiser event, is just one of the 1,200 young people aged 15-25 who are diagnosed with cancer each year. And, like Tess, who lives in Angelsea, Victoria, one-third of these youth cancer patients call regional or rural Australia home and need to travel to our cities for treatment.
River4Ward unites Melbourne’s media and entertainment industry to raise funds for Sony Foundation’s You Can Stay accommodation program, addressing the burden regional and rural families face when travelling for cancer treatment. Alarmingly, living more than 200km from cancer treatment can reduce your survival rate by 30%.
You Can Stay launched in 2020, 10 years after Sony Foundation founded national youth cancer initiative You Can to improve the survival rates for 15 – 25 year olds with cancer. You Can has established five specialised youth cancer centres in hospitals around Australia, including here in Melbourne at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, funded a national oncofertility program called You Can Fertility, research and services.
Since the You Can Stay program launched, Sony Foundation has funded more than 13,000 nights, with Quest Apartment Hotels the accommodation partner around Australia.
Victorian Health Minister, Hon. Mary-Anne Thomas attended and delivered a speech in support of the important work of Sony Foundation’s You Can program in Victoria.
Sony Music Group artists Kate Miller-Heidke and Holy Holy performed to a crowd of rival media companies and supporting corporate partners. Melbourne’s leading TV and radio personalities hosted segments of the event including Seven Network’s Hamish McLachlan and Rebecca Maddern, The Project’s Sarah Harris and KIIS FM’s Jase Hawkins & Lauren Phillips and Nova’s Ben, Liam and Belle. Sporting legends out in support included Collingwood Football Club’s Mason Cox; Nathan Buckley and Danielle Laidley.
The moment that captured hearts was Paralympian Kelly Cartwright OAM, who herself was diagnosed with sarcoma cancer at the age of 15 resulting in an above the knee amputation, introduced her friend, Tess, to give a keynote speech on her cancer journey.
To ease the financial and emotional burden of travelling for treatment, Tess and her family, from Anglesea Victoria, were offered free accommodation in a self-contained Quest apartment when she was in Melbourne for treatment. To date, they have benefited from over 60 nights funded by Sony Foundation’s You Can Stay program.
“Being 2 hours from home if my Mum couldn’t stay in Melbourne there is no way she could've been with me in hospital to the extent she was. For almost all of the 7 months of initial chemo my mum was next to my bed in hospital from 9am in the morning to usually 9 or 10pm at night. The pressure that Sony Foundation took off our family and allowed them to be there with me during my treatment was crucial for my mental health,” said Tess.
“You Can Stay is the next phase of the You Can program,” says Sophie Ryan, CEO of Sony Foundation. “We started looking at what happens to young people from the regions, from the bush, that get diagnosed with cancer. Because of the complexity of cancers that are often diagnosed in this age group, they cannot be treated closer to home if they don't live near a specialist centre. We spoke to many families and organisations in this space to understand what is the biggest challenge for people that had to travel for treatment. And, the resounding response was accommodation, the cost of traveling to a city.”