Martin Boling and his wife have blood cancer, a disease that claimed his brother in 2001.
Every day, 41 Australians are diagnosed with blood disorders like leukaemia and lymphomas, a statistic that the Leukaemia Foundation is working to change.
The annual World’s Greatest Shave – now in its 22nd year – has officially kicked off and this year the Leukaemia Foundation is looking to raise $16.5 million to provide support for blood cancer patients and their families.
“It is really good to see the people who have been shaving supporting the Leukaemia Foundation, it does excellent work,” an emotional Mr Boling said.
Among this year’s shavers was Canberra Liberals’ leader Alistair Coe, who made the spontaneous decision last Friday to don the Vin Diesel look in the hopes of raising $2,000 for the charity. As of midday today (11 March), Mr Coe had already raised over $2,500.
“I would be wrong to say if it was not just a little bit scary but it is for a great cause. The Leukaemia Foundation do magnificent work,” Mr Coe said.
“There are a lot of people in Canberra who are going through a very tough time as a result of a leukaemia diagnosis or other blood cancers and we need to do everything we can to help them along that journey and make sure they pull through.”
The money raised helps the Leukaemia Foundation support those battling blood cancers with initiatives like the John James Village in Garran – a home-away-from-home for those who have to travel for treatment – helping to ease the burden on patients and their families.
“They provide a house in a sense,” Mr Boling said. “You do not want to be travelling from Wagga to Canberra every day. They give [patients] a base where they can establish themselves and bring their family.
“But it is not just things like the village, it’s also being there to support the families of people with leukaemia as they go through treatment.
“There is quite a burden on wives and children when they have to come to grips with someone who is going through a life-threatening disease.”
Through John James and other similar villages around Australia, the Leukaemia Foundation provided over 52,000 nights of accommodation last year for regional families who had to relocate for treatment to give them the best chance possible when fighting the disease.
Around one-in-seven people with blood cancer – which makes up 10 per cent of cancers in Australia – will pass away from the disease.
With blood cancer becoming more common and affecting more people – rates have risen by around 30 per cent in the past decade – it’s no surprise that over two million people have signed up to shave or colour their hair since the World’s Greatest Shave started 20 years ago.
And now the ACT Liberals leader has joined their number.
“The little bit I can do is to lose my hair along the way and hopefully raise some money and awareness,” he said.
“I hope my taking the plunge shows that anyone can do it.”
It is not too late to register if you want to get involved in the World’s Greatest Shave this year. To sign up or donate, visit worldsgreatestshave.com.au or call 1800 500 088 for more information.
If you’d like to add to Mr Coe’s fundraising effort, visit the Leukaemia Foundation.