Small town making big impact

CANCER HELP: Tarpeena resident and nonagenarian Poppy Howe has led a group of women for 12 years in raising funds for Limestone Coast cancer patients. The group has recently donated $15,000 towards the new Cancer Council accommodation facility in Adelaide. ?

By Raquel Mustillo

WHEN Tarpeena resident Poppy Howe’s son Terry passed away of cancer, the then 78-year-old wasted no time in finding a resource to help manage her grief.

Still mourning the loss of her son, Ms Howe sought to establish a space for people affected by cancer to share their experiences.

“I decided I wanted to do something and when my son passed away, it prompted me to go ahead and get a few people together,” she said.

“I went around and asked a few people and they asked their friends and it grew from there.

“First it was just a place we could have a cup of tea and a chat, then we started having raffles and door prizes and from there it grew.”

The nonagenarian – who has since lost her daughter Donna and husband to cancer – has led the Tarpeena Cancer Support Group and helped raised tens of thousands of dollars though events.

For more than 12 years, a group of women have gathered at the Tarpeena Football Clubrooms each week to help support people with cancer.

The group’s 17 members now meet once a month, but continue to generate funds to provide cancer patients during diagnosis and treatment.

Since its inception the group has raised in excess of $40,000 through catering, biggest morning tea events, market stalls and a mini debutante ball.

The group has donated an AccuVein device – a non contact vein illumination which shows a map of veins to guide staff – for the Mount Gambier Hospital, an aquarium for the oncology ward and two specialised mattresses for patients at Penola.

“I had the idea for the aquarium when my daughter was going through treatment and it is good for everyone that goes in there,” Ms Howe said.

“My daughter used to lay back in bed while she was getting chemo and she said it was good to watch the fish swim around the tank.

“It keeps people occupied when they are going through something that isn’t very nice.”

Greenhill Lodge is the latest recipient of the group’s charitable efforts and has received $15,000 towards the facility, which provides accommodation and support for regional South Australians travelling to Adelaide for cancer treatment.

Ms Howe said the accommodation service was crucial during her daughter’s treatment.

“You don’t realise how many people from down here use Greenhill Lodge and how important it is until you use it yourself,” she said.

“They did a really good job when Donna was up there, they had a bus run and they would pick her up at the door, take her to get treatment and pick her up and take her back to Greenhill Lodge.

“Greenhill Lodge also have a kitchen so people could cook if they wanted to and talk to other people which was important because everyone is going through the same thing.

“Even though they are there because they have cancer, I have never seen such a happy group of people.”

Construction has stared on the Cancer Council’s $31m multi-storey integrated cancer building, which will combine research, prevention, information and support services alongside a new 120-room supportive accommodation facility.

Cancer Council SA chief executive Lincoln Size thanked the Tarpeena support group for its generosity and said support from the community was vital to enable the new project to go ahead.

“We are incredibly grateful to organisations like the Tarpeena Support Group for their donation, which will ensure that this vision will become a reality,” he said.