THE You Are My Sunshine Foundation (YAMS) has reached its fundraising target of $1 million to fund research into a cure for neuroblastoma cancer.
The foundation was founded in 2009 and after more than seven years of fundraising, chairperson Jude Donahoo is stepping aside from leading the effort.
Phillip Island’s Jude was inspired to start the foundation in honour of her granddaughter Kahlilla Donahoo, who was diagnosed with Stage 4 Neuroblastoma in November 2005, aged two, and sadly lost her battle in August 2008.
She has mixed feelings about reaching the goal and bringing an end to her strenuous fundraising efforts.
“It is now time for me to hang up the fundraising boots, however, rest assured, I’ll be staying in touch with all of the amazing people we have met along the You Are My Sunshine Foundation journey and we look forward to hopefully one day finding a cure for Neuroblastoma,” she said.
“Yes, I’ve reached my goal which is great, but we don’t have a cure yet, because one in two kids still die.
“The research that’s being done at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre is going through a Stage 2 trial which is extraordinary.
“It’s been very good research and it’s had a 50 per cent cure rate in mice.
“Mice and human trials are very much alike and they expect and hope it will work for children.”
YAMS has been the official charity partner of the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix since 2012, and the Australian Grand Prix Corporation and fans at the Grand Prix have contributed approximately $430,000 to the fundraising total.
The foundation raised more than $71,000 at this year’s Grand Prix to easily reach the $1 million total.
“It’s very exciting and at the end of this event we still have three years’ worth of funding for research,” Jude said.
“In two or three years’ time I think we might need to do more fundraising.
“It’s hard work and I turned 70 last week. I’ve done seven years of hard labour, and I couldn’t do it without the other volunteers of course.
“The Grand Prix Corporation is wonderful and without them we’d probably be looking at $500,000 instead of $1 million.
“The bikers are incredibly generous and I hope the charity that’s our predecessor takes the opportunity because there’s some money to be made at the track.
“I’d like to thank the wider community, volunteers and various organisations that put their hands up to help. We could never do this alone and I’m eternally grateful to everyone.
“Everyone that bought honey or jam or put coins in a tin, we’re grateful and the families are grateful. They’re making a difference which is fabulous.”
Although the survival rate has increased from 20 per cent to nearly 50 per cent, there’s still no effective treatment for advanced neuroblastoma.
Children diagnosed with cancer are faced with woefully inadequate funding from the government and there is a lack of interest from the pharmaceutical industry because diseases like neuroblastoma promise little or no profit.
Therefore, the funding provided by YAMS Foundation to the research community is significant in advancing neuroblastoma studies.
This has inspired Jude throughout the journey, and she believes children deserve to be given hope to fight neuroblastoma.
“They deserve for a cure to be found. It’s awful what they go through,” she said.
“I watched my little granddaughter die in her parents’ arms. It’s horrible and that’s why I did the fundraising.
“On Grand Prix weekend we had a family help out and their little four-month old baby twins were at home.
“One has neuroblastoma and needs chemo and the little sister was lying beside him. That’s what makes you keep going and that’s why we’ve done what we do.”
The YAMS Foundation will continue as a support forum where families can share their stories and the public can follow their stories.
Donations can still be made at www.yamsfoundation.org.au