John Upton

Supporting the Good Friday Appeal has a real family flavour for Lakes Entrance Area Manager John Upton.

Although John had been involved in fundraising activities with the Pied Pipers for a few years it all became personal after his now 17-year-old granddaughter Zoe was diagnosed with cancer when she was 18 months old.

Zoe is now cancer-free and the legacy of her illness can be seen in her family’s support for the Good Friday Appeal. John, with the help of Zoe’s mother Lesley, organises the Lakes Entrance CFA Brigade’s annual fundraising activities.

“It’s a real community effort,” John said.

With the focus on Good Friday, activities include two raffles (one at each end of the Lakes Entrance main street), doorknocking throughout the day and collections around the town’s entertainment venues in the evening.

“The whole community gets behind the activities,” John said. “We raise more than $20,000 for the hospital each year.”

About 30 brigade volunteers help with the raffles and the door-knock, along with about 50 kids from around the area.

Through his takeaway shop, Fish-A-Fare, John donates food for the volunteers during the day with salads and drinks paid for by the CFA and one of John’s suppliers, Aygee Gippsland, providing lollies for the kids. Mini-buses to ferry the doorknocking kids around are donated by Gippsland Lakes Community Health and at the end of the day, local National Bank staff give their time to count the donations.

John has been a CFA volunteer for nearly 50 years, the past 26 in Lakes Entrance. He has been the local area appeal manager for the Good Friday Appeal for about 12 years, taking over from the late Allen Bills who ran the fundraising activities in the region for more than 20 years.

“My involvement ramped up after Zoe had been in the Children’s for quite some time with cancer,” John said.

“The way they treated us was just exceptional. You couldn’t ask for better.”

He said the family experienced the same fantastic care when his own children and another grandchild had needed the hospital’s services.

After this year’s disappointing cancellation of activities because of COVID-19, John said everyone was hoping 2021 would see a return to normal efforts.

“We really missed it badly this year, but we did still manage to raise about $5000 in a virtual tin rattle.”

Originally posted November 2020
Words: Tricia Quirk

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