A COMMUNITY has rallied together alongside two red-headed sisters as they set out to challenge themselves while raising funds for an issue close to their hearts.
On Saturday Amy and Kelly Conroy ran a combined 150-kilometres around Ballarat during 13 hours to raise funds for the Cancer Council.
It was an emotional day, given that the two sisters are the nieces of former Moorabool Shire councillor Pat Toohey, who died after a battle with cancer last year.
In 2019 the sisters decided that they wanted to complete a challenging run together. While Kelly had competed in two 50km ultra marathons and Amy had already run a half marathon, the sisters desired to challenge themselves further.
As they can often be expensive to enter, the sisters decided they would set their own challenge and run locally. If they could raise any money, they decided they would donate it to a charity.
When in September 2019 the family lost a beloved member of their family to cancer, the sisters' 'uncle Pat', they decided to try to raise some money for the Cancer Council.
It was a really tough time and still is for our family, but at the same time we wanted to do something to contribute back to the Cancer Council.Kelly Conroy
They garnered support from the community after announcing their challenge on Facebook and creating their 'Redheads running for a cause' page and then the donations started to roll in.
Mr Toohey was a long-term councillor, serving the community for 15 years. During that time he served as mayor twice and so was well-known throughout the district.
"People were donating that we don't even know so it grew wider than just our family and friends. Strangers wanted to contribute to what we were doing. It was awesome to have that support," Ms Conroy said.
The women placed donation tins in shops around Ballan as well as the Shamrock hotel. Many businesses have also contributed to the cause by hosting raffles, with ticket proceeds to be donated to the fundraiser. A local woman, Stacey, who runs the business Simply Magical Creations, also created the 'red heads' running for a cause logo and printed it on to their running tops.
Their occupations meant it was difficult for them to find time to train and it was for this reason that they chose to run during the holidays so that they would have adequate time to recover. The run was hard for Kelly, especially towards the end.
Amy, who is a nurse at the Royal Children's Hospital, ran 50km and then rode the remainder of the route on a bike, while Kelly, a school teacher, ran the entire 100km.
I knew I'd struggle, especially in the sun and heat but it was worth it. Besides, it was nothing compared to what people who have cancer or a family member who have cancer go through.Kelly Conroy
Their route was designed to run past as many of their family member's houses as possible. The women set off at 4.30am around Lake Wendouree before taking a back route to the family farm at Bunding.
Their route then took them past their uncle Pat's home, through Ballan and past many of the stores which had supported them. They then ventured through Gordon and across to Dunnstown.
"When we were in Gordon we ran past the cemetery where our uncle is buried. That was really nice as it made it more meaningful and sentimental," Ms Conroy said.
Many of the women's family and friends, including some travelling up from Melbourne, joined in to support them along the way - cousins riding on bikes, young boys and dogs running alongside them for periods and then others joining the group on horseback.
As they ran, some people waved from their front porches, while others called out from their cars.
And the whole way - for 13 hours - the sisters were flanked by their supportive parents driving in cars.
Towards the end more than 20 people were running, cycling or riding together and offering their support during the final leg.
"It was amazing to look around and see these people running with us," Ms Conroy said. "We didn't expect that many people to come out so it was awesome."
So far, without having yet counted the funds raised in the donation tins, the women have raised more than $4500, far exceeding the amount they originally predicted.
Donations can still be made to the following account:
Name: Amy Conroy
BSB: 063 824
Account number: 1012 3173
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