Gerringong resident Luke Fownes lost his battle with leukaemia five months ago, but his family, friends and footy team are ensuring his legacy lives on.
About 20 members of the Gerringong Lions rugby league club will take part in the Leukaemia Foundation's World's Greatest Shave next Saturday, including Luke's older brother Matt, who is the state's highest individual fund-raiser for the event so far.
Matt Fownes's fund-raising tally of $17,500 also makes him the second highest individual fund-raiser in the country, and he's delighted to be giving back to the organisation that helped him and his parents Len and Annette through their toughest time.
"The Leukaemia Foundation was such a great support for us last year, helping us with accommodation while Luke was at Royal North Shore Hospital," he said.
"If the money I raise can help another family with accommodation or emotional support, if it can provide transport for an elderly patient with leukaemia or fund more research, then that's a great thing. I think Luke would be looking down and seeing what we've achieved and be one happy man."
Luke was a fit 26-year-old when he went to get a blood test early last year because of flu-like symptoms. He was diagnosed with an aggressive form of blood cancer - acute myeloid leukaemia - on February 12.
After three rounds of chemotherapy at Wollongong Hospital, he underwent a bone marrow transplant at Royal North Shore Hospital in June.
"He responded well to the transplant and was out of hospital in 15 days," Mr Fownes said. "We then shared an incredible three months as a family. He did everything the doctors told him, everything in his power to beat the disease - but unfortunately it wasn't enough."
The leukaemia had returned by September, and he then developed an infection which his compromised immune system could not fight.
"He died around midnight on October 9 with his family around him," Mr Fownes said. "Three hours before he died he got me to hold a phone to his ear so he could call his closest friends, say goodbye and ask them to carry his coffin.
"To see how brave he was throughout his ordeal - and in his final hours - gives me strength every day. We want to honour Luke by giving something back."
The shave will be at Cronin's Hotel, Gerringong on March 15. Visit worldsgreatestshave.com and search for Matt Fownes.