A fundraiser for Josie and the Dun family was held recently at Sunnyside Tavern. Image by Little Kite Photography
In what seems like a cruel twist of irony, local Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) leukaemia researcher Matt Dun is desperately searching for a way to cure one of the most deadliest forms of childhood brain cancer, diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma or DIPG.
Known to have an average survival time from diagnosis to mortality of just eight months, and a less than one percent chance of those diagnosed to live beyond five years, the heart-wrenching occurrence of DIPG is mostly found in children - including Matt's own two-year-old daughter Jospehine.
Since Matt and his wife Phoebe received the devastating news in February this year, Josie has undergone 36 general anaesthetics, 30 doses of radiation therapy to her brainstem, four surgeries and numerous other invasive procedures to her precious little body.
"I knew I could not continue to limit my research to childhood leukaemia when there seemed so much to be gained in the research of DIPG from skills and techniques I was using everyday," Matt explained on his GoFundMe page.
"So I developed my own research program through HMRI particularly focused on investigating ways to predict DIPG progression (in its early stages) as well as testing new drug therapies with the aim of improving survival. To date my cancer research expertise centres on my unique ability to sequence (identify) proteins. Proteins are the targets for most drugs used to treat cancer and I will use this expertise with the aim of establishing new therapies for children with DIPG."
For Matt it is a race against time with the clock ticking and the costs rises.
The cost of paying researcher salaries alone amounts to around $200,000 and there is also the added cost of Josie's ongoing treatments.
The Dun family in happier times. Image by Little Kite Photography
For Matt it is a race against time with the clock ticking and the costs rises...
To help ease the growing financial burden, family friend and Carlton & United Breweries representative Troy Bailey recently went to work organising a local fundraiser with the aim of raising $30,000 for the family.
"I organised a raffle with a $5,000 voucher from Flight Centre as the main prize and then went about contacting local hotels to each donate vouchers as well," he said.
"I was blown away by how many hotels just immediately said yes, and together that formed the beginning of our major raffle for the event."
It was during his regular rounds that Troy then got chatting with Sunnyside Tavern owner Martin Brett, better known to locals as Moose, and that was when the event, The Josie Dunn Gift, found it's home.
It was during his regular rounds that Troy then got chatting with Sunnyside Tavern owner Martin Brett, better known to locals as Moose, and that was when the event, The Josie Dunn Gift,
found it's home...
"Troy told me about one of his mates who was having a rough trot with his daughter being diagnosed with cancer and how they were organising a fundraiser to try and help out," Moose said.
"Then the world got even smaller when I realised I had worked with Matt's brother and sister 20 years ago. I said we could host the fundraiser here at the Sunnyside and it was as simple as that."
While Troy and his friends continued securing raffle prizes and organising the fundraiser, Moose and his Sunnyside staff began preparing to host the event, with the inclusion of food and other necessities to cater for up to 300 guests.
Held on Sunday, 29 July The Josie Dun Gift event raised more than $70,000 for the family.
"I can't speak highly enough of Moose and the staff at The Sunnyside Tavern," Troy said.
"How easy they were to work with and how willing to help, and that goes for all the hoteliers we approached. Everyone was so eager to help us and it really means a lot."
To make a donation toward finding a cure for Josie, go to the Run DIPG GoFundMe page.
All images courtesy of Little Kite Photography.