Date: 30 May 2024

Victorian Sports, Media & Corporate Titans Unite to Raise $805,000 for Young Australians with Cancer

Sony Foundation, the charity arm of the Sony Group of Companies, united sporting legends, media personalities and corporate heavyweights today in Melbourne at the Foundation’s annual entertainment extravaganza, River4Ward, to raise $805,000 to support young Australians with cancer.

The star-studded lunch was attended by the Toyota AFL Premiership Cup, the Lexus Melbourne Cup and the Australian Open Championship Trophies, ‘Norman Brookes Challenge Cup’ and the ‘Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup’ with insights into the three iconic Melbourne events shared in a special ‘Fireside Chat’ with Darcy Moore, Michelle Payne OAM and Todd Woodbridge OAM representing each championship event, moderated by Seven’s Jason Richardson.

Sony Music Entertainment artists Daryl Braithwaite and Dylan Wright
performed extended live sets at River4Ward 2024 with attendees including Kelly Cartwright OAM, Rob Woodhouse, Nine’s Russel Howcroft, Jo Hall; Seven’s Jason Richardson; Paramount’s Georgie Tunny, Julia Morris; NOVA’s Lauren Phillips, Jase Hawkins, Clint Stanaway, Ben Harvey, Liam Stapleton and Belle Jackson; Ann Peacock, Andrea Moss, Gaynor Wheatley, Ash London and more.

Funds raised at River4Ward will go towards Sony Foundation’s You Can Stay program, providing free and uncapped accommodation, for 15-29-year-old regional youth cancer patients, and their families, who have to travel to the city to access lifesaving treatment.  Since launching in June 2020, Sony Foundation has provided nearly 23,000 nights of accommodation for over 485+ youth cancer patients nationally. In January 2024, the You Can Stay program expanded to support patients 15-29 years (previously 15-25 years); which will see the number of patients supported double over the coming year.

Sophie Ryan, CEO, Sony Foundation says despite the significant progress that has been made in cancer treatment for adolescents and young adults, more must be done.

"Young Victorians, and more broadly young Aussies, are still falling through the gaps. Youth cancer patients are often diagnosed with rare, complex, and aggressive cancers that necessitate specialised treatment available only in city hospitals.

"For our regional youth, this is a critical health equity issue, with the burdens of a cancer diagnosis disproportionately heavy for those living in our regional and rural areas., There remains an urgent and growing need for accommodation services tailored to youth cancer patients, with current government subsidies being insufficient to meet this need. You Can Stay has been instrumental in bridging this gap. By providing a home-away-from-home close to metropolitan hospitals, You Can Stay is reducing delays in access to cancer treatment for youth cancer patients due to financial and psychosocial barriers, as well as increasing adherence to treatment," said Ms. Ryan.

"Today we have support from over 100 corporate and media companies, exemplifying the profound impact of collaborative philanthropy in tackling some of our most pressing social issues. With the expansion of the You Can Stay program increasing patient eligibility from 15-25 years to up to 29 years, we anticipate this will double  the number of regional and rural patients we support. This ambitious growth highlights the vital need for greater fundraising. By being stronger together, we are improving health and well-being outcomes by closing the health equity gap for regional youth cancer patients, ensuring they receive the best available treatment and support," said Ms. Ryan.

Alarmingly, one-third of youth cancer patients are from regional areas, and they are more likely to suffer mental health issues, financial strain, and isolation due to the increased burden of seeking life-saving treatment in major cities. The survival rate of Australians living more than 200 km from cancer treatment can be up to 30% lower than people living close by.

20-year-old Madison Purkis from the Albury/Wodonga region shared an address at the event. Madison was undertaking her second year at university in Canberra when she received a shock diagnosis of a rare soft-tissue cancer, after months of unidentified pain, requiring her to relocate to Melbourne for over four months of treatment, to date. Madison and her family have been provided a two-bedroom apartment, at no cost, thanks to Sony Foundation’s You Can Stay program.

“I was having the time of my life at university. Living within a kilometre of most of my best friends, often coming home after a long day of lectures to impromptu live music gigs. Life was busy and so fun. However, whilst all of this was happening, I was in a great deal of pain, every few months I would have these weeklong episodes of the most insane back pain.

“I was quite confused when doctors told me I had Ewing’s Sarcoma, growing out of my hip and up my spine. They told me it was rare, and they had never treated it before, but they could send me to Melbourne. While we hadn’t even started discussing what my survival statistics where I was certain I had already lost my life, not the heart pumping blood flowing kind of life but my community, my goals and ambitions, the path I was following had shattered beneath my feet in one very short conversation,” said Ms Purkis.

“After 10 long months of intense chemotherapy treatment and radiation. I am coming out of this better than when I came in and that is in no small part due to Sony Foundation, their support was so much more than just a place to stay. The hope and stability I have, that I get to take as I restart my 20s is in no small part due to the support that has been provided to me and my family. We could not have done this without their generosity,” said Ms Purkis. 

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