The blue and gold (and green) was out in force at the Grandstand on Friday night as the Sydney Uni Hockey Club (SUHC) and its supporters came together to raise over $21,000 for SUHC player Chris Pelow, who earlier this year lost his lower leg after being diagnosed with synovial sarcoma – a rare and vicious cancer that mostly affects young people.
Green cup-cakes, green shirts and a human-sized shamrock filled the room for a night of Olympian speeches, raffles, quizzes and banter. With the support of countless generous people and a great club behind it, the night was an overwhelming success.
Paralympian Brad Thomas OAM started the night by putting things in perspective. Brad had Australia’s first prosthetic leg, was a three-time Olympian, and is now a leader in the corporate world. To him this is just a roadbump in Chris’s career. A few noisy quizzes were next, followed by silence as the MCs gently prompted Chris to relive the hours of being told that he had cancer and would have a leg amputated immediately. As his father Ronan wept, and his mother and sisters looked on (briefly) from Ireland via Skype, Chris calmly recalled the disbelief, the fear and the hope that each new scan would reveal a miracle. “It is what it is, though,” said Chris, “so you just have to get on with it.”
Silence went to loud cheers as Chris singled out two club-mates – surgeon Sanjeev Gupta, and Damo Cunningham, the podiatrist from the men’s 6th grade side who probably saved his life with a canny early diagnosis. As Chris said, “Without them things could have been worse.” Others noted included Chris Moylan, Mark Crennan, Dougal Alexander (who moved out of his house so Chris and family had a place to stay) and Aaron and Megan Oman, who have kindly hosted Ronan for weeks. These are just seven people – there has been help and support from dozens and dozens.
The night was for Chris, not just SUHC, and many of Chris’s lively workmates from TRC joined in the action. TRC was recently voted in Australia’s top 10 workplaces. Measuring by their support for Chris and by the team they had on Friday night, they are odds-on to top that poll next time round. There were also guests from across the Irish community and the Sydney hockey community, particularly from the Glebe and Eastern Suburbs Hockey Clubs. This was extremely well appreciated.
Back in Dublin, Ireland, Chris played for Corinthians Hockey Club. Chris’s father Ronan donated a Corinthians club tie to SUHC as a mark of respect from Corinthians for the support SUHC is giving one of their own. This first official club memento was auctioned off to SUHC’s own Jonny Wilkinson for a very healthy $200.
SUHC would like to thank Katie Burgess for leading the organisation of the evening, and to MCs Rob Verdon and Ben Chiarella. Rob’s wit and testing questions would put most professional hosts to shame. The club would also like to thank the generous donors and sponsors from far and wide. Just Hockey, the Grandstand, Fitness First, TRC and SUSF were there, as well as people from SUHC and elsewhere. Aaron Oman (honorary SUHC), Peter FitzSimons (The SMH) Adam Campano (Glebe Hockey Club) and Brad Thomas himself all greatly helped the cause through their generosity.
Donations and payments are still coming in, but so far over $21,000 has been raised for Chris. That includes direct donations to date of over $8,000, over $4,000 through advance ticket sales, and over $9,000 on the night from the door, raffles, silent auctions and other events. It will only go part-way to assisting Chris and his family meet their financial costs to date, but the club is pleased to be able to help Chris in any way that they can in the next stages of what promises to be a remarkable life.
SUHC sincerely thanks all organisers and donors for their support. They include: Scott Barker, Sophie Boyle, Katie Burgess, Adam Campano, Steph Do Carmo, Ben Chiarella, Mark Crennan, Mick Duck, Peter FitSimons, Dara Hayes, Mick Irby, Alistair Johnston, Nicolas Johnston, Rowan Johnston, Elle Kershaw, Annalyse Lister, Tom Lobsey, Ian McMaster, Aaron Oman, Maddie Roche, Troy Rossiter, Emma Scriven, Anne Simmons, Brad Thomas and Rob Verdon and AB Hotel, Fitness First, The Grandstand, Just Hockey, SUSF and TRC.
If you would like to make a donation you are able to do so by emailing [email protected].