WITH a cup of tea in hand and a fiery determination to help those in need, Mount Gambier resident Lois Bayre made it her mission to raise funds for Cancer Council SA.
For the past 19 years, the caring community member, with a team of generous volunteers, has hosted Australia’s Biggest Morning Teas in the Blue Lake city, raising over $100,000 in total.
An inspiration to many in the region, the local resident will this Friday receive the Australia Day Citizen of the Year Award.
“I am absolutely overwhelmed and grateful that I have been recognised for doing it, I am very passionate about raising money,” she said.
“But I have not done it for accolades, that was never my intention, I just wanted to raise money for cancer research.”
Initially hoping to bring together a few close friends to help raise funds, Ms Bayre said she never imagined it would turn into an event which attracts hundreds of people each year.
“When my mum had cancer there was not a lot of talk about how people could get treatment so when she passed away I thought well I should donate towards the organisation – which was then known as the Anti-Cancer Foundation – to help them with research,” she said.
“After a few years of doing that, and after the name change to Cancer Council SA, I received a letter from them asking if I would want to host a Biggest Morning Tea, and I thought why not?
“Because my husband and I had been in business in Mount Gambier we knew a lot of people that could come along and I remember thinking at one stage wow I’m going to have 26 people come to my house and I am hopeless in the kitchen.”
Moving the event to St Paul’s Hall, Ms Bayre raised a total of $920 in her first year.
However, as word spread the event became more popular and after couple of years it was moved to the Returned and Services League Bowling Club.
“Over 200 people were coming at that stage and we were carting tables and chairs to and from the facility, it was a lot of work,” she said.
“One year there were 439 squashed in there and that year we raised over $11,000.”
With the bowling club bursting at the seams Ms Bayre decided it would be easier to move the event to Casadio Park.
“I’m very proud of what we have achieved, the volunteers and I work really well together and the support from the community has been fantastic.
“At the end of the day, if I did not have those 300 or so guests I would not be able to raise the money.
“So I hope when they come along they do have a really enjoyable morning knowing they are helping to support Cancer Council SA.”
Hoping to continue to host the event for the next two years, Ms Bayre said it will then be time for someone new to take it on.
“It is already established, and helping to save lives,” she said.
“Cancer council is making huge progress, but it’s only because of the funds so we have to make sure we continue to get behind events such as the Biggest Morning Tea.”