It’s 2019, and Nick’s wife has just been diagnosed with terminal cancer.
“I was really overwhelmed. I didn’t know what to do or where to go.”
When she received the news, Natalie Rivers-Muscat had spent three months straight in the Canberra Hospital, surrounded by her loving husband and two sons. A nurse, noticing her distress, reached out to a small Queanbeyan-based charity to see if they could help the young family.
Rise Above – Capital Region Cancer Relief provides financial assistance and support to cancer patients and families in the ACT, Queanbeyan and surrounding region.
Beginning as Cancer Support Group in 1985, Rise Above raised funds so 13 local teenagers with cancer could make it to a CanTeen national camp.
Today, more than 200 patients are actively supported, and thousands are helped each year.
Since his wife’s death in 2020, Nick has become a director, participating in campaigns and fundraising barbecues at Bunnings out of gratitude for their assistance.
He recently spoke at a fundraising event at The Dock on the Kingston Foreshore on Australia Day.
“I was working part-time while also acting as a full-time carer for Natalie and a full-time dad to our two kids,” he says.
“I was living on two-thirds of my normal wage as a cabinet maker.”
Rise Above acting CEO Sarah Elliot says that one of the things they appreciate as a not-for-profit organisation is that cancer isn’t just physically and mentally exhausting.
“It can be really financially exhausting as well,” she says.
Rise Above assists by helping to cover the cost of medication, chemotherapy and dietary supplements.
“We also help with gas and electricity bills because the side effects to treatment can leave patients feeling extremely cold,” Sarah says.
This work relies on fundraising, community partners, the generosity of businesses and the local community to meet the needs of the increasing number of families under their wings.
“We don’t spend a lot of money on advertising, so we really rely on community partners to get our message out there.”
Between the two events held at The Dock and the related eatery, The Jetty (near Reconciliation Place on the lakeside), a total of $12,182 was raised.
Co-owner of The Dock Glen Collins says customers had the chance to make voluntary donations on the day.
“Given it was a public holiday and we don’t have any surcharge, customers were more than happy to give,” he says.
Volunteers for Rise Above also staffed the doors for donations, but the bulk of the funds were raised through a charity auction.
Several of The Dock’s business partners donated various items to the auction, including an exercise bike worth $2000, a Mellabella Gelato catering package worth $1245, a wellness package and monthly pool membership worth $700, and two tickets to Reboot Bermagui.
The big-ticket item was a 2020 Australian Olympic Gold Rowing Suit, signed by the gold-medal-winning and bronze-medal-winning teams. Once framed, it will hang in The Dock.
Glen first heard about Rise Above through a friend directly involved in their work.
“I went to meet Sarah and the rest of the staff, and got a pretty clear idea that they are an amazing charity.”
Natalie was cared for through the public health system which absorbed a lot of the costs, but Nick estimates that over the four months after her diagnosis, he bought $5000 worth of medication to “keep her pain-free and nausea-free”.
“Rise Above set up accounts with two local chemists and covered a large portion of this,” Nick says.
Nick says they were instrumental in helping him through the most difficult time of his life. He wants to see more people get on board, supporting the charity however they can.
“The generosity at the fundraiser at The Dock was unbelievable,” he says.
“It genuinely blew me away.”
The best part is knowing that every cent will go to others like him, “somebody who needs it”.