MY name is Samantha Wan and I am on the board of the Michael Manion Wool Industry Foundation with a group of extraordinary gentlemen.
Gentlemen whose strength and empathy has taught me how to see through the unfairness and pain of circumstance of every case we receive and through the lens of support – industry support.
I’d like to take this opportunity to reintroduce them to you. Some of you may know them all – and ask that they stand so in the event you have questions later – you know the faces.
Our chairman, Ken Stock, secretary, Peter Morgan, directors Peter Brice, Paul Ferronato, Jim Michell, Nigel Rendell, Len Tenace and Steve Noa, and special advisors Mark Dyson and Stephen Keys. I would also like to acknowledge the ongoing support of Bianca Heaney and the work of Melissa Mulley. Thank you to Australian Wool Industries Secretariat for the invite to share with you the undertakings of the Michael Manion Foundation tonight.
It has been eight years since Michael Manion passed away at age 61.
Affectionately known as ‘the Legg’, he was one of life’s characters who lived for buying and selling wool to the world. He was looked up to by his peers, friends and especially the younger people of the buying industry. His friends in the wool trade aimed to ensure he was well remembered by setting up a foundation to support families in the bush, especially children who may be ill or disadvantaged through accident, illness or other unfortunate circumstances.
I’d like you to think back to a fulfilled moment when you were nine – perhaps a few more years back for some. Maybe you enjoyed riding bikes out with your friends, exploring creek beds, catching frogs or playing pranks on your siblings. Remember the bright sunshine, the green of the grass or even the colour of your dog.
Now, I would ask that you close your eyes. Not to blink or just to sleep, but to feel what young Jarrah felt when at nine years old he lost both eyes to retinoblastoma, a rare malignant cancer. Jarrah’s mum and dad had paid for his prosthetic eyes with their credit card. MMWIF funded Jarrah’s prosthetic eyes, and a braille machine to support his education.
Jarrah is an incredible young individual who inspired a book by the acclaimed author Pip Harry. If you haven’t already, please open your eyes.
What is it all about?
It’s about being able to share with you that in June 2021 the foundation was able to provide much needed time away to a loving family under much stress as five year-old Logan Treasure battled a returned Leukaemia, just 18 months after the all-clear. And then to share the joy that as of last week Logan is 15 months cancer-free and living a very normal boy’s life.
It’s about receiving a letter from Annie Singe who became a foundation beneficiary at eight years old. Annie has a rare condition called Giant Congenital Nevus. At eight years old, she has had over 50 operations. Fifty.
Being a rare condition with only a few cases in Australia, the foundation sent Annie and her mum Cath to a Nevus Outreach International Conference in Chicago so she could talk to doctors and mix with other children with the same condition.
In the letter, Annie reminded us it had been four years since she and her mum had visited the wool auctions in Melbourne on their way back from the conference. Annie has had two surgeries since then, though more were scheduled and cancelled with COVID. These surgeries help remove the nevus to generate healthy skin.
The family have returned from the nevus conference where Annie was taught about nevus care by a dermatologist and catch up in person with friends with the same condition. Her highlight was a field trip where everyone joined in not worrying about how other people could see their nevus.
“I would never have had the opportunity to go to either of the conferences if it hadn’t been for the Michael Manion Foundation”, Annie says, “I will be forever thankful to you all.”
It’s about people like Kerry Harris
It’s being able to step in and soften the financial burden of travel and treatment to Kerry Harris as she faced her cancer battle after dedicating much of her life caring for ill close family members.
It’s being able to support a family, to allow them to grieve five year-old Indi’s sudden departure after toiling silently doing their utmost to maintain her quality of life after the diagnosis of a highly aggressive brain tumour.
It’s knowing the foundation helped the Oster family create beautiful memories together, as our hearts broke as we joined the wool industry saying goodbye to Kursha Oster.
These are their stories. And the foundation has many more. These rural families are the backbone of our industry – of our community.
Without them, for every single one of us here – our roles in and alongside the wool supply chain from credit to shipping and everything in between – would be nothing of what they are.
The foundation thanks everyone who has donated and supported us. We have seen the repeated generosity of wool growers donating their own wool, brokers donating services and bales, exporters purchasing, and we’d love to see others involved and supporting.
Without you, there would not be the means – the funds – to help these families and children. And there are more out there.
The call to action
For your calendar, a charity auction will be held in Melbourne Sale 18 the week beginning 31 October, or the Melbourne Cup week. A foundation member will be in touch, though we encourage all to reach out. We welcome any and all new additions to this catalogue to be auctioned by a celebrity auctioneer.
On the tables, there is a MMWIF flyer with two QR codes – COVID has ensured we are well-versed in these.
To go against the norm, I invite you to pick up your phone and scan the left code – and please assist your seating neighbour if they need it. This takes you to our Facebook page where we share the most up to date information on the happenings with the foundation. Please ‘Like’ and show your support by interacting with our updates.
I now invite you to scan the right code – this takes you to the foundation website, with more information on the foundation, how to make contact and importantly, how you can make a tax deductible donation in any method to show the next Annie, Jarrah, Logan or Kursha that others care.
Our chairman sums it up best – If you want to donate to anybody, donate to the Michael Manion Wool Industry Foundation because nearly every cent you give actually goes to the people who need it.
We can’t heal them and we haven’t cured anybody yet, but we can put a smile on the dial. And the photos we share are proof we have.
The common thread we hear is that ‘(they) would never be one to ask for help,’ which is why it is important that we have ears and hearts in communities. Please help find them. Please help support them. Thank you.