While the 21 June is known as the shortest day of the year, many regard it as a metaphorical and literal signal that there are brighter days ahead. Serendipitously, Mark’s presentation on the solstice heralded his sense of faith in the future.
As he looked out towards a sea of assembled staff and students wearing official Mark Hughes Foundation beanies, his message was clear.
“Every time I see someone wearing a beanie, I see hope,” Mark said.
Mark and his wife Kirralee began the Mark Hughes Foundation, a health promotion charity which raises funds for brain cancer research, in 2014.
The move came after he received a shock diagnosis of brain cancer only months prior in July 2013, and consequently discovered how underfunded brain cancer was in Australia.
In less than 10 years, the Mark Hughes Foundation has raised more than $24 million and funded; a Brain Cancer Biobank, Travel Grants, multiple research projects around Australia including three Fellowships and multiple Brain Cancer Care Coordinators.
Mark’s invitation to present at the College was part of a student-led initiative spearheaded by Abby Ward, Tess Peel and Max Siddens who have each lost loved ones to brain cancer. Together with their peers, the trio sold more than 440 Mark Hughes Foundation beanies, organised a bake sale and pizza day to raise funds and awareness for the Foundation.
In 2019 when Abby was just 11 years old, she lost her mother, Alison, to the insidious disease.
“When my mum was sick, my family received help from the Mark Hughes Foundation. It was a great help,” she said, adding. “I want to try and give back to that community.”
Tess, who lost her grandfather Michael Watson to brain cancer earlier this year, said that she wants to do what she can to help prevent others from experiencing the pain her family has endured.
“I want to be able to help families that are going through brain cancer and make sure they don’t go through all the hurt and sadness we went through.”
The St Joseph’s College students have made great inroads in their quest, with fundraising efforts now exceeding $12,000.
Hughes, a former student in the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, said he was inspired by the students’ stories and by the school, which he said has contributed an “enormous effort” to the cause.
If you would like to contribute towards vital brain cancer research by buying a Mark Hughes Foundation beanie you can purchase one online at https://beanie.markhughesfoundation.com.au/how-can-i-help/buy-a-beanie/ or, pick one up at IGA supermarkets or Lowes stores.