MERCURY SERIES - Making A Difference
Colin and Melissa Markham have been recognised for their work to raise funds and awareness for the Melanoma Foundation.
The foundation recently invited the Markhams to a function in Sydney to celebrate the success of the organisation over almost two decades and acknowledge them on an honour board recognising major contributors to its success.
Illawarra committee members such as Joan Hurt and Daphne Carey and the late Ron Carey were also recognised among a list of people who raised more than $20,000 for research and awareness about melanoma.
The event, supported by the Melanoma Institute Australia, celebrated 25 years of successful fund-raising by committed members of several communities.
The invitation from Melanoma Foundation director Professor William McCarthy acknowledged the Markhams and the other three Illawarra committee members as among the major contributors over many years.
"Melissa was the convener here of the melanoma committee for about 10 years and I was the patron of it," Mr Markham said.
Mrs Markham said the Illawarra committee started small but became one of the most active in the state.
"It started off with humble beginnings," she said.
"Originally, Bill McCarthy and another doctor were working out of Royal Prince Alfred Hospital ... and they set up a foundation.
"Patients gave donations and then four smaller groups in Sydney, the Illawarra, the Shoalhaven and Newcastle were formed."
Mrs Markham said many people in the Illawarra had donated to melanoma research and awareness over the years.
"It started off with chook raffles, car rallies and all those kind of things.
"A lot of money came through Apex. It was all voluntary but now they have managed to get a lot of corporate support. Over 17 years, we [the Illawarra group] probably raised over $300,000."
Mr Markham was an MP when it first started and he and his wife got interested after being invited to the very first race day for the cause at Kembla Grange.
A couple of years later, Mrs Markham was asked to go on the committee and he was asked to be patron.
"From that point, we did a lot of work," he said.
"We had a race day every year at Kembla Grange. Bill McCarthy used to say to us 'the money we get from the Illawarra pays for a specialist in research'. That is what it was all about - research and education and awareness."
Mrs Markham said she appreciated the importance of the cause and the need for more research and education.
She had a melanoma herself and actually saw Prof McCarthy at RPA before she got involved in the foundation.
The original committee for the Melanoma Foundation was made up of his patients or family members of patients who had not survived.
"They all knew the work he was doing was worthwhile," she said.
The cocktail event the Markhams attended was the final function under the name Melanoma Foundation.
"It is now the Melanoma Institute Australia," Mrs Markham said.
The institute and all the specialists and researchers are now all in the one building called the Poche Centre near the Mater Hospital in North Sydney.
The building was funded by a large donation from the Poche family.
"Prof McCarthy is now retired but was regarded as the world's leading specialist in melanoma," Mr Markham said.