The incredible spirit of the late Dr Margaret Gardiner was remembered Sunday morning with barely a dry eye at the beginning of the Wollongong Mothers Day Classic.
The annual fundraiser was aptly renamed Margaret’s Family Fun ‘n Run/Walk in honour of the Illawarra GP and ambassador for the National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF) who lost her own battle with cancer in March.
Dr Gardiner was the driving force behind establishing the NBCF event in Wollongong, now in its 16th year.
Her three sons and their partners watched on at Stuart Park as entertainer Scott Radburn sang “You Raise Me Up” before competitors began filing over to the starting line.
“I was lucky I had a mum from school, from the early years, next to me. And we just grabbed one another just in silence as the tears rolled down,” said long time friend Jenelle Belsito, who had known Dr Gardiner since their (now adult) children started kindergarten together.
“She would just be above thinking look how many more people have come out and look at the tutus."
In 2000 Dr Gardiner was diagnosed with breast cancer then in 2011 it had spread to her bones and in her lung.
Mrs Belsito and her husband Gino have been helping organise the event since it’s inception and said it was Dr Gardiner’s “dream”.
A spokeswoman from the NBCF said more than $20,000 was raised in the Illawarra this year, with funds going towards treatment research, detection and prevention of breast cancer.
It adds to the total of more than $750,000 raised since the Illawarra event began in 2001.
“She would be over the moon,” Mrs Belsito said.
Despite her friend battling cancer for years, Mrs Belsito said Dr Gardiner always remained positive.
“That spirit brought a lot of us mums together and it was beautiful … and I only hope that all the funds can one day find a cure,” she said.
“She made you feel happy; she had a lot of positiveness about her.
“The whole time that I knew her obviously she had the cancer and she’d been fighting and fighting and fighting it and doing all this fundraising and raising three beautiful children.”
She believed Dr Gardiner was watching the crowd of more than 1200 from above and would want to urge all to enjoy their lives as she did.
“Enjoy your life, enjoy your family, make the most of every day that you wake up, make the most of every single day. She was very vibrant, even as sick as she was,” Mrs Belsito said.