Four-year-old Quade Sharman missed last year’s i98FM Illawarra Convoy as he was undergoing cancer treatment in hospital – so he’s been counting the sleeps till the 2018 event.
And there’s just one sleep to go now, with more than 1500 trucks and motorcycles to depart under police escort from Illawarra Coal’s West Cliff Colliery on Appin Road at 8.15am on Sunday.
Before the event even starts, more than $1.2 million has been raised from both the lead truck and bike donations this year.
All up, over $11.5 million has been raised since the event started in 2005 – funds that have been distributed to charities and families in need across the region.
Families like the Sharman’s, from Woonona, whose world was shattered in September 2017.
“Quade was diagnosed with a Wilms Tumour and underwent surgery to remove a large 1kg tumour from his kidney, and he also lost the kidney,” his mother Kylie said.
“He had six months of chemotherapy, so missed Convoy last year, so he’s just a bit excited to be going this year as part of the kids and families bus.”
Mrs Sharman said she and husband Glen has received both financial and emotional support from the Convoy community. Travel and grocery vouchers helped with living expenses as they focused on Quade’s treatment, which ended in March.
“Wilms tumour has a good prognosis, there’s very good cure rates,” Mrs Sharman said. “The biggest chance of relapse is in the first two years so Quade will need regular scans.
“We did have a scare in the last two months, with a 50 per cent chance that the cancer had returned in his lungs – but we found out last Friday that he’d got the all clear which was a big relief.”
Regular contact with other Convoy families had helped immensely.
“Nothing prepares you for the diagnosis – we’ve always been one of those families at Convoy cheering from the sidelines,” she said. “We never thought we’d be on the other side of it.
“The connections we’ve made with other families going through similar experiences has been wonderful.”
Mrs Sharman thanked those who supported Convoy, which will culminate in a family fun day at the new location of the Illawarra Regional Airport, Albion Park.
The team known as The Dandaloo Boys will be leading the trucks, with a winning contribution of $310,000. Carr Brothers Motorcycles will lead the bikes with a donation of $90,203.
The Dandaloo Boys consists of local businesses The Dandaloo Hotel, Coastal Windows and Doors, Doherty Transport, Illawarra Engineering Services and Snare Fabrications.
Team representative Bianca Starcic encouraged everyone to line the roads, and join in the fun day, on Sunday.
“All these businesses, their staff and supporters put so much hard work, passion and energy into fundraising all year,” she said. “To see the smiles on the kids’ faces on Convoy day makes it all worthwhile.
“It’s a wonderful event, that helps so many people in the community and we’re proud to support it.”