Celebrating 20 years of hope and change

There wasn’t a dry eye in the house at Sony Foundation’s 20th anniversary event when four time cancer survivor,  Jacqui Freestone shared the stage with Sony Music artist and Sony Foundation ambassador, Jess Mauboy to sing a stirring rendition of ‘Lean on Me’. Not only was it a moment that Jacqui, as an amateur singer, could only dream of, it was a song that carried intentional meaning of the mission charging the charity over the past 20 years. Support to young Australians in need, those without a voice, overlooked and facing the toughest adversity.

Before she sang, Jacqui shared an emotional few words about the positive impact of ‘You Can’ for young patients and survivors like herself and dedicated her duet with Jess to her friend and fellow cancer survivor and patient saying. “It’s a huge honour and joy to be able to sing here today in front of you all. My journey has beaten my confidence and physically taken its toll so it’s just incredible that I can stand here today and even attempt singing with the amazing Jessica Mauboy. I also wanted to dedicate this song to two people. My friend Jessica Olson in the audience who is fighting her own battle and also my lovely mother Ines who’s been through it all with me.” Jacqui, cancer survivor and You Can Champion

20 years is an important milestone. It’s a chance to look back, to reflect and to feel a sense of pride and happiness at what has been achieved. On July 26th, Sony Foundation took the opportunity to acknowledge and thank the collective efforts of the Sony Foundation network of valued Corporate Partners, supporters, ambassadors and beneficiaries. A network of people who want to make a difference, not just talk about it. People who give, not for an agenda and people who say yes more than they say no.

Sony Foundation Chairman, John Kirby AM addressed guests saying, “The uniqueness and brilliance of Sony Foundation’s structure is what sets it apart in the charity space. Our business-minded approach to social problems means that we can find real, manageable solutions to complex social issues such as illness, disability and disease. What has enabled this is the strong and valued business relationships of the Sony Companies in Australia who are an essential part of this successful Foundation.”

Hosted by FOX SPORTS AUSTRALIA’s Yvonne Sampson and long-time Foundation supporter Kerri-Anne Kennerley, the evening took guests on a journey from the Foundation’s inception through to the present day capturing the scale of what has been achieved for young Australians facing severe adversity. There were many powerful and poignant moments from the individuals who have been directly impacted by the Foundation’s programs over the years, demonstrating the genuine change and tangible impact Sony Foundation is generating.

A highlight moment was Jessica Mauboy performing Beyonce’s ‘I Was Here’ in front of an epic compilation of footage of Sony Foundation’s highlight moments right around Australia over 20 years.

Teresa, the mother of Edgar, a severely autistic young Sony camper spoke about the ripple effect of the Sony Holiday Camp Program in their family’s lives and the special bond Edgar formed with Tom, his companion on Sony Camp back in 2008.

“The bond Tom and Edgar share is special, but I don’t think it needs to be. Edgar’s friendship with Tom and all that blossomed from it is a direct result of the work of The Sony Foundation. This is the power of the Sony Camps. They do so much more than provide respite for carers of children with special needs. They give children with special needs an opportunity to participate in a community event, independently of their families. They also give teenagers an opportunity to get up close and personal with disability, and hopefully, to see past it, to the children and young men and women before them who ask nothing more than to belong. I don’t think it is possible to overestimate the impact of this early engagement for teenagers. As our future adults, they can have a powerful influence in shaping a friendlier, not just inclusive, but welcoming society going forward.”

Teresa, mother of Sony camper, Edgar

Roje, a 23 year old, who as a young child was a victim of war and tragedy forcing him to flee his home in Congo and seek asylum here in Australia also shared his story on the night. Having experienced first-hand the life-changing programs Sony Foundation support at Musicians Making A Difference (MMAD) he shared his powerful message through a captivating spoken word performance.

Attended by ambassadors Peter Overton, Natalie Bassingthwaighte, Richard Wilkins and Karl Stefanovic the Foundation also announced a significant milestone of $30 million raised over the past 20 years. These funds have enabled over $10 million to be donated to build specialised You Can youth cancer centres across the country, over $6 million donated to youth homelessness, $2 million donated to build a youth centre in the flood ravaged area in Ipswich, over $5 million to support hundreds of Holiday Camps for children with special needs, $1 million to youth mental health and support programs and over $1 million in scholarships.

The evening showcased the impact of the Foundation’s last two decades of change and hope, with thanks to the support of many. But as Sony Foundation CEO, Sophie Ryan rightly pointed out, it was also a commitment to continue to generate positive change by closing the gap in social inequalities.

“Together we need to strive to alleviate the complex and challenging social issues and to work collaboratively to find the solutions that will challenge us and remain committed to delivering on these solutions. And, let the young people’s stories that we hear tonight be the inspiration to keep up the fight and challenge the hurdles.”