Joint winners of 2012 Illawarra Person of Year

Never before has the Illawarra Person of the Year been shared by two people.

Yet Chris Beaven and Marty Haynes make a natural pair.

Between them, they have raised well in excess of $10 million in the past decade, all of it for the most needy children, and all of it for the Illawarra.

Chris Beaven is about to enter her 10th year at the head of KidzWish, the charity she founded by accident after taking over a Variety Club fund-raiser.

Marty Haynes raised more than $1 million this year, for the first time since he started a truck and motorbike convoy in 2005 with the hope of raising $20,000.

Honourable mention: Nieves Murray

Honourable mention: David Smith

Honourable mention: Joyce Warrington

While Beaven accepted payment this year after almost a decade of working for nothing, Haynes remains a volunteer.

And both are surprisingly humble about their achievements.

"It's my staff, not me," Beaven says. "You can never do these things on your own.

"The award makes me feel very humble but satisfied that I have got this far for people to understand what I am trying to achieve.

"By recognising me, people recognise a team, they recognise KidzWish and they recognise a big family that we need to look after."

Haynes - who gained his truck licence in the second year of the Camp Quality Convoy - was pushed into pole position this year, but pulled over and threatened to go home unless he was allowed to follow.

"It's a team effort," he says.

Perhaps it's no accident that both come from solid working class backgrounds, with that working class value of pulling together for the common good.

Honourable mention: Cassie Lieschke

Honourable mention: David de Santi

Beaven is a Cockney, the only child of a London fireman who later worked at the fish market with her mother, leaving Beaven to get to school on her own.

Haynes is the son of a truck driver who grew up in a Housing Commission place at Dundas, near Parramatta.

Both wear their emotions on their sleeves.

Haynes is well-known as one half of Marty and Bianca, the successful breakfast duo on i98FM, and a fixture on the radio landscape since he arrived in the Illawarra from Canberra in 2002.

There, he had started a fund-raising convoy in 1997 after meeting a little boy who was the start of it all.

Ryan Scanes was a four-year-old boy suffering from cancer of the nervous system who touched his heart.

"This boy kept ringing me on air - he was such a character, a beautiful kid," Haynes says.

"I got to know his mum and dad. Once or twice a week we would do stuff, take him for a ride in my rally car or take him out for dinner."

When Ryan died a week after his seventh birthday, he left a deep mark on Haynes. One of the leading trucks in this convoy bears a picture of Ryan with the words:

"In tribute to Ryan Scanes - Marty's little mate."

"This kid really touched me big time," Haynes says.

"I saw what his mum and dad went through. No parent would want to walk in those shoes. It's tough, not just for the child but also for the siblings."

The depth of feeling that Haynes still has for Ryan is shown by the fact that although he raises money for children with cancer, he avoids becoming emotionally close.

"Now I have my own kids," he says. "I don't want to go through that again."

Although the convoy was not his idea - it was originally started in Brisbane by a writer called John Moran - the Illawarra version is by far the most successful in the nation.

Each year it has grown, until last month's event attracted 764 trucks, 926 motorbikes and an estimated 100,000 spectators lining the route from West Cliff Colliery on the Appin Road to the Croome Road sports fields in Albion Park.

Haynes knew he was onto another record-breaker when the auction for lead truck - where tradition states that even the losing bids are donated - reached $700,000.

While Haynes is the instigator, he is quick to point out that nothing would happen without the 16 people on the committee and the 130 volunteers.

"It doesn't matter what you do, everyone can chip in," he says. "It's the day where the truck drivers say it's their Christmas."

While Ryan Scanes might be the inspiration behind the Camp Quality Convoy, there's another special child who will forever be a part of KidzWish.

His name is Noah Southall.

This year - the ninth KidzWish Christmas party at the WIN Entertainment Centre - was attended by more than 4000 special needs children, their siblings and carers.

Noah, an 11-year-old boy from Koonawarra and a prominent ambassador for Illawarra's children's charity KidzWish, died on October 22.

His death - and that of other sick and disabled children from the region - was recognised at this year's show, but it was not a time for sadness.

A day later, at the annual KidzWish fund-raising ball, Butch, the chihuahua donated by the charity to Noah, was a star turn in an adaptation of The Wizard of Oz.

"I do miss him but I think he's everywhere," Beaven says.

"I believe Noah knew he was on borrowed time but at the same time he was strong.

"As much as his body was his weakness, his mind was very much there.

"I think he taught me that life is to be enjoyed."

Beaven fell into KidzWish by mistake after working for Wave FM and then starting her own advertising agency, which folded during the 1980s downturn in the steel industry.

She was helping to organise a Christmas party for the Variety Club and took over in 2003 after the previous organiser backed out.

Then she received a visit from the Office of Charities, which said her organisation was not legal. She was told to attach it to another charity or start her own. She did the latter.

"I don't really know why I'm here, it just happened," Beaven says.

Soon her ambition went beyond the Christmas party into funding a range of services from speech therapy to holidays, music to wheelchairs, swimming lessons to Hawks tickets.

Like Haynes, Beaven is aware of the extraordinary strain on families that caring for a special-needs child involves.

"It's not possible to be a happy family," she says.

"If a baby is not breathing, or is born without legs, the first thing a parent must feel is jealousy of healthy children.

"But there's a thing inside a mum that they don't care because that child is mine.

"You wouldn't be without them but God it's hard, it's so hard. It's a destroyer of families, of marriages, of society."

Beaven is looking to expand the programs to include siblings, who can often be overlooked. Although a grandmother of adults (she refuses to disclose her age), she's still a long way off slowing down.

The best thing about KidzWish for her is that she reckons it has kept her young.

And the hardest thing?

"Losing Noah." ■

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