'It breaks your heart': How cancer led alpaca farmers Joe and Betty to look to the future

CHARITABLE DONATION: There is life beyond cancer for Joe and Betty Banhidi, who have chosen to repay their good fortune with a special gift.
CHARITABLE DONATION: There is life beyond cancer for Joe and Betty Banhidi, who have chosen to repay their good fortune with a special gift.

Joe and Betty Banhidi thought they retired in 1992, but their plans to relax went on hold when Joe read a news story about the new Australian Alpaca Centre in the Southern Highlands.

“Seeing the alpaca on the front page I thought they were just beautiful animals.

“Sure enough, I forgot all the other activities I had in mind for retirement,” said the former aircraft maintenance engineer.

Alpacas were to occupy the pair for the next 25 years, first in breeding and showing, and then in machine-knitting garments from the exquisite fleece, which they sold at Canberra’s Old Bus Depot Markets.

Their momentum, however, came to a halt in September 2013 when alpaca farmer Joe was diagnosed with aggressive mantle cell lymphoma.

During his six-month course of heavy chemotherapy, the Banhidis said their eyes were opened to how illness impacts on people – and how medical research can help.

“When you see the young ones suffering from cancer, it breaks your heart,” says Betty.

“You don’t know how or why that happens but hopefully through research they can receive the proper treatment.”

This advertising feature is sponsored by the following businesses. Click the links to learn more:


Joe, now in his third year of remission, conveys a sense of gratitude to medical research for saving his life.

“When I was told that the cancer was not curable it was a shock, but it’s manageable, and God willing it will become more manageable as science advances further,” he said.

“The more we read and learn the more fascinating it is.

“What is a cancer? What is the mechanism of it? What’s happening in our bodies?

“I just can’t leave it alone!”

The Banhidis’ new interest led them to the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, through a Probus tour of Australian BioResources facility in Moss Vale.

Impressed with Garvan’s work, they decided to become Partners for the Future by leaving a portion of their estate in their wills to Garvan.

“We are enjoying the benefit of those who contributed to medical research before us,” says Joe.

“So in a way we are transferring our thanks through that donation towards the future.”

More about the Garvan Institute can be found at garvan.org.au

  • This story first appeared in thesenior.com.au

​Gifts to charity: the will is out there

MORE than three times as many Australians would leave a gift to charity in their will if the option was more “top of mind” when planning their estate, according to new research.

Figures from Include a Charity Week (includeacharity.com.au) show only 7.4 per cent of Australians leave a gift to charity in their will. The research found a quarter of Aussies said they would like to do this when they go to write or update their will. 

Include a Charity Week, September 10-16, aims to raise awareness of leaving a gift in your will to charity. 

“Australians are big-hearted… but we need to find better ways to have the conversation about gifts in wills,” said campaign director Helen Merrick.

She wants to dispel the myth that charitable bequests are only for the wealthy and said the majority are left by “ordinary, hardworking Australians”.