a man and woman wearing NSW Health uniforms standing either side of two women wearing rugby league shirts and holding a shield.

MNCCI Social Worker Robert Brangwin and Breast Nurse Jane Kelly with Sawtell Junior Panthers Secretary Cassie Engel and a very motivated Olivia Riddel with the first ever Charity Shield.

Olivia inspires thousands to support cancer patients

Mar 31, 2023
This article was published 1 year ago.

Olivia Riddel is 32 years old, has three beautiful children and started treatment for breast cancer on Christmas Eve.

The Mid North Coast Cancer Institute patient also has an army of supporters who, on Sunday, got behind her fundraising efforts for the first ever Charity Shield Day between the Sawtell Junior Panthers and the Ballina Seagulls to raise more than $10,000 in support of local cancer patients.

While friends and the Sawtell Junior Rugby League Club initially wanted to launch a GoFundMe campaign for Olivia, the footy mum was determined to make a difference for all MNCCI patients on the Coffs Coast.

“I just wanted to do something with my story – to turn a negative into a positive,” Olivia said.

“Yes, cancer sucks but people also feel they can’t talk about it.

“Well, I want to say the care I’ve received and the people who work at our local MNCCI has been amazing.

“From the girls in the front office to the oncology team, the wonderful nurses in the treatment room, Breast Nurse Jane (Kelly) and the social workers… everyone has been absolutely phenomenal.

“I wanted to do some good with my story; to normalise cancer so people are not so hushed about it or afraid of it,” Olivia said.

The Charity Shield Day grew from a simple idea with a secret objective of raising $10,000 to becoming a fun family day supported by several thousand people and exceeding all expectations. It will continue as an annual event in the pre-season period to assist other charities on the Coffs Coast and Ballina.

Olivia’s two boys, 12-year-old Toby and 5-year-old Charlie, were part of the fundraising effort, along with their mates; shaving their heads and proudly sporting a new look while adding to the fundraising target.

Another youngster, 14-year-old Eryn Sandry also quadrupled her $500 goal in support of Olivia’s campaign.

MNCCI Breast Clinical Nurse Consultant Jane Kelly and Oncology Social Worker Robert Brangwin were among the visitors to Rex Hardaker Oval in Toormina for Sunday’s Charity Shield Day.

“Olivia is an amazing woman,” Mrs Kelly said.

“She was absolutely determined to make a difference for our patients, and she has done exactly that.

“The Charity Shield Day was a huge event, requiring a lot of effort. We are extremely grateful to Olivia, and to the club for supporting her ambitious plans, but we also want to thank every person who supported the day, including so many youngsters who shaved or coloured their hair in the hope of raising money to help others.

“It was a community effort, and what a stunning success it was,” Mrs Kelly said.

A woman wearing a footy jersey standing next to two boys wearing smaller jerseys.

MNCCI fundraiser Olivia Riddel with two of her biggest supporters – son Toby and his mate Dylan Taylor.

two women shaving the heads of two young boys.

Selena Brennan and Malinda Ogilvy lent their skills to the fundraising effort, which included Olivia Riddel’s sons, Toby and Charlie, losing their hair to the clippers.

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