3 March 2023

Hope springs from loss at the Mike Cramsie Memorial Race Day

| Dione David
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Regan Harrison, Mark Hughes and Kate Harrison

Mike Cramsie’s daughter Kate Harrison and her husband Regan (left) with football star and brain cancer survivor Mark Hughes at the 2023 Mike Cramsie Memorial Race Day. Photos: Dalice Trost.

“You always hear the heartbreaking stories of those fighting cancer. You sympathise with them and their loved ones, yet at the same time feel grateful that you and your family are not affected.”

It’s been a year since Kate Harrison, daughter of brain cancer victim Michael Cramsie, penned this introduction to her father’s story.

It’s a long, sometimes harrowing, often beautiful journey told from Kate’s standpoint. It’s raw, relatable, hopeful and crushing but mostly, shockingly, ordinary – even for those fortunate enough never to have been touched by the scourge of cancer.

Kate says it was a cathartic exercise, which she used to debrief and unpack what had happened.

But it served another purpose – as a vehicle to launch the Mike Cramsie Memorial Race Day – which raised about $35,000 in its inaugural year last year.

Organised by Kate and her family and leveraging off Thoroughbred Park’s sponsor connections, ticket sales, auction item proceeds and generous donations for this year’s event added up to more than $35,000.

Mark Hughes

Mark Hughes addresses the crowd at this year’s Mike Cramsie Memorial Race Day.

All proceeds go to the Mark Hughes Foundation, which supports vital brain cancer research and people experiencing brain cancer and their families – something Kate says is woefully understudied and underfunded.

“From our own experience, until you’re in it you don’t realise how little funding and support there is for brain cancer,” she says.

“We have family members affected by other cancers as well; some have more research, better life expectancies and multiple treatments available. With dad, it was plan A and plan B and then we were out of options.

“Dad had his surgery, chemo and radiation therapy all in Sydney before his ongoing treatment could be looked after by a wonderful doctor in Canberra. Apart from that, it would’ve been great to have a medical practitioner close by when you were unsure about things. To have someone to walk the road with you because you feel like you’re flying blind a lot of the time.

“The mortality rate for brain cancer hasn’t really gotten better in the last 30 years, either – only 1 per cent.

Despite all this, brain cancer receives less than 5 per cent of all federal government cancer funding.

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On average, a person is diagnosed with brain cancer every five hours in Australia.

Brain cancer is the biggest cancer killer of children and people under 40.

Kate says the statistics paint a grim picture, but they weren’t the only motivation for the event.

“Initially, we thought it would be a nice way to remember dad,” she says.

“I think we hoped to raise maybe five grand.”

The Mike Cramsie Memorial Race Day has so far raised more than $75,000 in total for the Mark Hughes Foundation over two years – and counting.

This included smaller initiatives from family and friends under the Mike Cramsie banner.

“My sister and brother-in-law had a little birthday thing at their house in October and in lieu of presents they asked guests to donate to dad’s page,” she explains.

“They got about three and a half grand. Those kinds of contributions add up.

“I think little events like family gatherings can be a surprisingly powerful vehicle for meaningful impact.”

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Kate says a possible next iteration of the Mike Cramsie Memorial Race Day will be to form a committee to share the load as they (hopefully) grow the event.

Thoroughbred Park marketing and sponsorship manager Robbie Ringland says the event would be welcome at the park for as long as Kate and her team wanted to run it.

“We love this partnership and are happy to keep contributing to this great cause,” he says.

“We partner with a few organisations in this way and it’s a good method for charities like the Mark Hughes Foundation, and the people who support them, to sell an experience in an environment where people are usually happy to dig deep and give to causes.

“The Mark Hughes Foundation does important work in the community, addressing a very serious issue.”

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