David Naylor has supported Cancer Council NSW for decades, but it was only when his daughter Sheree was diagnosed with the insidious disease that he truly understood the difference the charity makes.
Sadly Sheree lost her battle with cancer in May 2017, aged 37. She left behind a loving husband, three young children and a host of devastated relatives and friends.
For Mr Naylor, putting up his hand to volunteer with Cancer Council’s southern region office to help others has in turn helped him through his own grief.
And this Sunday, when hundreds of Illawarra residents join the Walk for Sheree, he believes his daughter will be looking down with a smile.
“Sheree was first diagnosed with melanoma on her tongue when she was 36, and she had a piece cut out and a skin graft and we thought that was the end of it,” Mr Naylor said.
“Then a toothache took her back to the specialist and a lump was found on her neck and it just spiralled from there, with the cancer quickly spreading.
“And despite the chemotherapy and radiation and operations – and her strength and courage throughout it – she drifted away.”
Mr Naylor said the walk, starting from Bulli Surf Club at 10am, would not only honour his daughter’s memory, but so many others.
“Everyone knows someone touched by cancer, and many of us have lost close friends or family members to this horrible disease,” he said.
“Cancer Council helped my family – and has helped so many others – and so I wanted to help raise funds for them to continue their work to support people and for research into one day finding a cure.
“I know Sheree would be proud of what we are doing and she’ll be looking down on us on the day saying thanks.”
Almost $5000 has already been raised, and Cancer Council Southern Region spokesman Grant Plecas was full of praise for Mr Naylor’s efforts in spite of his grief.
“During his association with Football South Coast David helped raise awareness and funds for Cancer Council, and after Sheree’s death has been helping out as a volunteer driver,” he said.
“In 2017, he also became the highest fundraiser for Cancer Council’s 7 Bridges Walk in Sydney and this year he wanted to do something closer to home.
“Events like the Walk for Sheree give us the opportunity to work with community members, with people who are passionate about the cause. And it allows us to invest our funds to stretch further our support services to help more people in the community.”
To donate or register visit www.doitforcancer.com.au/event/walk-for-sheree