MERCURY SERIES: MAKING A DIFFERENCE
How do you create a special day for a cancer sufferer who can't drive?
Dean McLerie has the answer: being chauffeured around for a day.
Having just launched Paragon Chauffeured Car Service, Mr McLerie had only had one paying customer when he volunteered to drive Wollongong's Terrie Baxter to Junior Chamber International (JCI) Illawarra's annual cancer fundraiser Tea by the Sea at the City Beach Function Centre.
He could not think of a better way to celebrate his new business than by getting involved as a sponsor of the annual event.
Mrs Baxter spoke to almost 300 people at the event about her journey as a cancer sufferer.
After hearing her talk, Mr McLerie asked what else she had on that day. When she told him, he immediately offered to provide his car service for the whole day.
Mrs Baxter had told the audience a cancer diagnosis was pretty scary, but said it was comforting to know that something as simple as blue and yellow balloons, at annual events such as Daffodil Day, Tea by the Sea and Relay For Life were not only helping to increase awareness in the community, but raising vital funds to fight cancer and find a cure.
"Six years ago I was given that diagnosis [stage four cancer]," she said.
"When I asked how long I had, they gave me six months to live.
"I did not like it much, so I decided I was going to fight. I am now here six years later - long after they said I wouldn't be."
Mrs Baxter thanked everyone in the room for supporting the fight of people such as her and raising money for cancer treatment, support, research and education about cancer prevention.
That people such as Mr McLerie were willing to do so much to help was incredible.
"Dean picked me up at 6am and has offered me his services for the whole day," she said.
"He heard me talking to [my friend] Helen Hadlow about all the medical appointments I had today, after this. I can't drive, so I was going to catch the green bus and I was going to walk, but he said, 'I am at your disposal ... this is your day and I am going to take you to those appointments'.
"It is people like Dean and all the sponsors who have contributed to today's event ... and all those people working behind the scenes who make a difference."
Mrs Baxter said there was a positive vibe in the room at the annual Tea By The Sea, which doubled as a celebration of the progress made in the cancer fight.
"When I walked out of my place to wait for Dean, the sunrise was just stunning," she said.
Mrs Baxter is a marriage celebrant who enjoys giving other people a special day, but she said this time the tables had definitely been turned - and given her the motivation to keep fighting.
"I just wake up every morning and say this is my full-time job, to get myself alive and healthy for as long as I can," she said.
That same attitude helped Mrs Baxter attend and speak at Tea by the Sea even though she had a broken arm.
She described it as "a minor setback" from living life to the full.
"I was riding a scooter with my grandson," she said.
Mr McLerie began running his own business after a career in retail, including many years in management.
He said it was great to support good causes in a large organisation, but very personal when it was your own small business.
When he contacted Toby Dawson at the Cancer Council, he said he wanted to do something with his new business to make someone's day more special.