WONTHAGGI identity Deb Rielly, who’s helped fundraise thousands of dollars for local community groups whilst saving lives as a paramedic, has been awarded the Bass Coast Citizen of the Year award.
Around 100 community members unanimously rose for a standing ovation last Wednesday night, at the Wonthaggi Town Hall, after it was announced Deb had received the prestigious award.
“I didn’t think I was going to be here tonight,” Deb said, with her two sons by her side.
“My boys were going to say something for me. I’m not usually stuck for words, but anyway here I am,” she said, holding back tears.
The cancer fighter was at the Box Hill Hospital just a few hours before the ceremony kicked off.
“If you have a zest for life, you’ve got to live. You don’t give up. You don’t give in,” she said.
“You’ve got to look forward and just be inspired by what’s ahead of you.”
It’d be easier to list what Deb hasn’t done, rather than what she has.
Deb has raised thousands of dollars for more than 20 local community groups through her annual Keeping Kids on Track fun run event, as well as other charity events including Relay for Life.
“The Keeping Kids on Track fun run is about connecting communities, uniting clubs and supporting our youth,” Deb said.
She’s also volunteered her time as a motivational speaker on topics including breast cancer awareness, Daffodil Day and the impacts of ICE addiction.
Deb’s volunteered her time for countless local groups and events, including the Wonthaggi Life Saving Club, Nippers program, local triathlon club, Bass Coast Cycle Challenge, and more.
“What can I say about the things I do? I do them because I just do them,” she said.
Late last year, Deb released a book titled ‘Just Because’.
“With everything that happens, you find that people who put in to organise events within this community – when they put in, they put in 100 per cent. It’s a great community.”
Deb’s also the founder of ‘Tough Titties’ – a support group for anyone battling cancer or other illness or trauma in the Bass Coast or South Gippsland areas.
“I don’t know what’s going on, where I’m headed, at this stage,” she said.
“I’ve got my boys here to support me, they’ve been going through it a long time – since 2003,” she said of her fight with cancer.
“We will just keep attacking. The doctors sat on the side of my bed four times and said ‘Sorry Deb,’ this is the oncologist, ‘I’m sorry there’s nothing else I can do’.
“And she said ‘You’re not even crying’, and I said, ‘Because your plan is not my plan,’” Deb said, followed by an applause from the crowd.
“Thank you. I’m really honoured to get this award.”
Deb was nominated by Michael Anderson, and Barbara and Rebecca Slavin.
“You know, I was saying the other night – and also tonight – is that I truly believe that Lee and Mauz should get this,” she said of the other finalists.
The two started the Wonthaggi Rock School, and Deb goes there every Tuesday night to sing.
“It’s good for the lungs and also good for your soul,” Deb said.
“It’s not rubbing in at all, but I’m going give you this – Lee and Mauz – to hang up at your house,” she said, followed by a round of applause and laughter.
Deputy mayor Cr Bruce Kent described Deb as a bright and determined woman – devoted to her community.
“She inspires others with her positive and caring nature,” he said.
“Deb is a cancer fighter, not a cancer survivor. She uses her positive attitude and strength to inspire others to be fighters.
“She’s never let that keep her from achieving her goals.”
After being diagnosed with breast cancer and undergoing surgery and chemotherapy, Deb learnt she had been chosen to represent Australia in the World Championship Iron Man event in New Zealand.
“Being the determined woman that Deb is, she competed while still undergoing treatment.
“Deb has never let her cancer define her, and is an inspiration in the way she cares for others in the community; both through her role as a paramedic and also through her personal endeavours.”
Deb’s a real hero