The legacy of Fred Borg was alive and well as hundreds of Macarthur residents flocked to Leumeah for the start of the 24 Hour Fight Against Cancer Macarthur walkathon this morning.
Generous locals donned this year’s orange shirt, bearing a dedication to the charity’s founder who died after battling a recurrence of his cancer last year.
There was also a huge selection of attendees wearing team colours, joining the fight to represent a loved one who has battled or is battling cancer.
Fred was honoured as this year’s special guest – in spirit – and all speakers at the opening ceremony praised the hard work, dedication and passion he brought to the charity.
Event MC Matthew Borg said it was strange to be holding the event without his grandfather.
“This is our first year without our founder,” he said.
“It will be a tough year, but we won’t raise any less and won’t walk any less long than we have every other year.”
The event raises money for cancer services in the Macarthur region.
Every dollar raised is filtered back into the community, as the entire committee is comprised of volunteers.
Organisers expect this year will take the overall tally for money raised to $4 million.
Past funds have contributed things like a patient transport bus to Campbelltown Hospital, Camden Hospital and the palliative care units, a cooling cap system which allows people to keep their hair during radiation and various programs and services specifically for cancer patients, so locals do not have to leave the region to get the treatment they need.
Indigenous elder and 24 Hour Fight veteran Uncle Ivan Wellington delivered a welcome to country, and urged everyone to remember the difference Fred had made to the Macarthur community.
“I’d like everyone to remember a great man,” he said.
“He was the most passionate leader of the 24 Hour Fight. That’s what Campbelltown’s all about – it makes the old heart feel good.
“This is a special day for a special man, an old friend of mine, a great mate that we all care about.
“While we’re here today, don’t forget to celebrate life and have fun with the blessing of my ancestors and each and every one of your ancestors.”
Chairman Warren Morrison, who took over from Fred after his passing, spoke about the important contribution of all attendees and sponsors.
“Without you, all this wouldn’t happen,” he said.
“Fred is looking down on us now, and on his great family, his children and grandchildren – they’re an amazing family.
“Fred believed in this cause with a passion.
“We’ve raised nearly $4 million for our local hospitals with your help.
“I stand here today as the second chairperson of the 24 Hour, not because I wanted the role, but because we lost our dear friend Fred to the recurrence of the same disease he fought so hard against personally and for all of us.
“We wish he was here today, but there are things beyond our control.”
Cr Morrison said “cancer doesn’t discriminate” and told the crowd how he now knew this to be true more than he ever had before.
“If affects all of us,” he said.
“I’ve been involved in this committee for 12 years and about four months ago it hit me. My sister was diagnosed with cancer.
“I’m so proud to keeping doing this for her and for everyone.
“She is getting treatment from a great cancer centre that cares. She will have the best possible recovery, thanks to you. That is a big comfort for me.”
Deputy chairwoman Sue McGarrity – who was celebrating her birthday today – spoke at length about Fred’s contribution to the Macarthur community.
“There are thousands of people that come into our lives and if you’re very, very lucky you’ll met someone that has a profound impact on you,” she said.
“Fred Borg was that man – he brought us all together for this great cause.
“We lost him last year to the very illness he fought so hard to overcome.
“He seemed invincible. His absence here today is so hard to comprehend.
“Fred believed the community of Macarthur was a great place to live and raise a family.
“At last year’s opening Fred told us this cause was bigger than any one person and he knew it would be in great hands for years to come.
“I remarked to a friend at the time that it almost sounded like a farewell speech, and brushed it aside.
“Maybe Fred knew he was unwell and was preparing us for a time without him. We’ll never know.
“I feel blessed to be the receiver of Fred’s unwavering love through the years and this means more to me than I can express.”
Everyone in the grandstand was given a photo of Fred to hold high in the air to show the Borg family just how much he meant to the community.
Matthew Borg, brimming with emotion, told the crowd the gesture “was almost too much for me”.
The first lap, traditionally the survivors’ lap, was this year taken in honour of Fred, with committee members and members of the Borg family holding a banner in his honour.
The walk will continue until 10am tomorrow.