FIONA Elsey died 20 years ago this month but her name lives on with the annual Fiona’s Walk.
More than 1500 secondary school students walked around Lake Wendouree yesterday to raise funds for the newly renamed Fiona Elsey Cancer Research Institute, formerly the Ballarat Cancer Research Centre.
Fiona, who was just 13, passed away from rare bone cancer Ewing’s Sarcoma in 1992 but had asked her oncologist Dr George Kannourakis to set up a Ballarat research centre based on the Leukaemia Auxiliary Royal Children’s Hospital cancer research unit.
Fiona’s mother Gail said the walk showed each student could perform a selfless act to help another.
“Fiona displayed incredible strength when she was dying and was a true example of the power within us all,” Ms Elsey said.
“It’s great to see so many students willing to participate and continue Fiona’s dream. This type of support within the community displays the impact cancer has on so many of us and the importance of a cancer research facility like FECRI.”
Students from Ballarat High School, Loreto College, Mount Clear College, Phoenix Community College and Urquhart Park Primary School all took part.
It was co-ordinated by Ballarat High School teacher Natalie Schreenan and her VCAL students.
Fiona Henderson's memories
I FIRST met Fiona Elsey in 1990, just after she was diagnosed with Ewing's Sarcoma.
She was being given a brand new stereo by the Make-A-Wish Foundation and I was given the job of covering it.
I have always been thankful for that decision.
I arrived at the Elseys' Delacombe home expecting to find tears and sadness. But I quickly dropped my pre-conceptions at the front door.
I was greeted with smiles and laughter as a whirlwind teenage girl dressed in her favourite black t-shirt and jeans proudly showed off her new acquisition by pumping out heavy metal at a thousand decibels.
From memory, I think it was AC/DC. I do remember she had her best friend with her and they were both squealing and dancing around with delight. Fiona had lost most of her hair but none of her megawatt smile, inherited from her gorgeous mother Gail.
We did the interview, with Fiona chatting away excitedly before dashing off to show her stereo to a house full of visiting neighbours and friends.
Later, when Fiona and Gail decided to begin fundraising for a new cancer research centre, they turned to me for publicity help and I was always happy to lend a hand, or my computer at least.
When Fiona died I wrote her obituary, wanting Ballarat to know the real girl. The one who loved heavy metal, her dog and her family.
The remarkable 13-year-old girl who knew she was going to die but who cared enough about other people to want to help save others.
Fiona's work towards a cancer research centre was carried on by Gail, who told me yesterday that Fi was always with her, always in her heart.
And I'm sure Fiona is smiling down every time the now Fiona Elsey Cancer Research Institute celebrates a breakthrough.