Brave Hearts founders
Suzy Watson, Chris Thomas and Jenny Black
Founding and Life Members of Brave Hearts on the Murray Inc.
In 2003, Chris Thomas (a much loved volunteer at the Murray Valley Chemotherapy Unit at the time), watched the uplifting movie Calendar Girls and immediately believed that Albury Wodonga could produce its own calendar and in the process raise money to provide extra services and resources for cancer patients in our local region.
She invited a talented professional photographer – Suzy Watson and a then Regional Breast Cancer Nurse, Jenny Black, to come on board and live her dream.
The overwhelming success of this amazing calendar – Brave Hearts Faces of Love Courage and Support saw the birth of Brave Hearts on the Murray Inc. and the beginning of a rewarding journey that has witnessed so many special projects involving an inspiring group of women and men who have been touched by a cancer diagnosis and who very aptly stand by their name – Brave Hearts.
Now the three of them feel privileged to work alongside this remarkable and ever growing tribe and are constantly reminded each day of their commitment to this cause, their invincible spirit, zest for life, courage and tenacity and are in awe of Brave Hearts on the Murray’s achievements since its inception.
They are also indebted to our very generous community who help Brave Hearts on the Murray fulfil our dreams of assisting people in our region who are gong through the inherent challenges that come with a cancer diagnosis.
They thank all for travelling on this remarkable journey with them so that they could fulfil their dream.
Mike has been an integral part of Brave Hearts activities since its inception after being inspired by his wife Suzy Watson’s wonderful effort in the calendar project. Mike found his opportunity to become more fully involved in Brave Hearts’ activities when the dragon boat project became a reality. He was a valuable assistant in the construction of the boat and then the move into coaching seemed he natural progression.
Since then he has with his gentle patient manner, guided, taught and coached many Brave hearts and many other community members in the finer art of paddling and sweeping a dragon boat.
His respect and admiration for Brave Hearts’ members and their achievements is unwavering. He even lovingly towed the precious hand made dragon boat 1500 kms to the 2007 International Dragons Abreast Regatta in Caloundra because he understood how much the proud Brave Hearts’ girls wished to show the world what they had achieved, despite their cancer diagnosis.
As coach it has been difficult for Mike at some ties to weigh up being competitive and embracing the difficulties that members face due to their different circumstances. . He always asks that they strive to do better, but he has always put the person before the trophy and keenly weighs up each situation in front of him. In the end, it is always the good for all that wins with him.
Mike has been inspirational in the way that he goes about supporting our organisation. He has championed our cause in every project that we have ever been involved in. He has put the organisation in front of his livelihood on many occasions and has taken a “million” hours out of his profession so that he can assist us in any way possible. He was a key driver of our Celebration Garden project and is the first person to put his hand up to help with any project – whether it is Brave Heats specific or Brave Hearts Dragon Boat Club projects – often in the background, setting up and then disappearing into the sunset! He always gives 110% and it is evident by the number of times he answers our requests for help that his own business has suffered.
Throughout his involvement, Mike has always shown kindness to others. He is extremely mindful of members, especially those recovering from treatment and gives them space when needed most. He will always give people the benefit of the doubt and will always support them when questioned by others.
The vision he has for our organisation is outstanding. He truly believes in the spirit of Brave Hearts and what we represent. Mike is a wonderful example of someone who (thankfully) has not been touched by cancer himself – but shows great empathy towards other who have. He’s a kind, nice human being. He actually isn’t silver – he’s pure gold.
One of the original “Calendar Girls”! Di is one of God’s beautiful people and has been a Brave Heart in the true sense of the word since day one.
Di is a very gentle and compassionate person, very considerate of those around her and always sympathetic to their needs. She quietly will send an appropriate message out of the blue, when needed.
Being passionate and generous of heart, Di is a great advocate for the organisation’s cause, and drawing on that passion is always willing to create public awareness for our cause, publicly speaking on many occasions representing Brave Hearts on the Murray either for Breast Cancer awareness or representing the Brave Hearts Dragon Boat Club.
On numerous occasions Di has met survivors in person to give them support and encouragement on their cancer journey. Being an inspiring survivor herself, gives her great insight into the nurturing of a new comer’s needs. She constantly imparts positivity and strength and this dedication and contribution to supporting survivors is invaluable.
Di is the willing face behind any fundraiser – big or small – and has given outstanding support in Brave Heart on the Murray projects, especially the calendar, building the beautiful dragon boat and the rose garden project. Di also enjoys and is a very willing participant in community link projects such as Field of Women, Pink Days, Relay for Life and the Mother’s Day Classic.
Although a devoted wife to Bob, a busy Mum of four daughters, a grandmother to a gorgeous grandson and in full time employment, Di will always step up and help out whenever she can. Di in the past has always been on the dragon boat committee of which she has been Vice President and now currently serves as the Secretary of Brave Hearts on the Murray Inc. as well as being an active member of the dragon boat club.
She is, without a doubt a worthy recipient of a Silver Heart.
Another original “Calendar Girl”. Jodie was so impressed by the drive and passion of the original Brave Hearts, she “signed on” with an important input into the calendar, and then became an invaluable part of the crew to help build our first dragon boat.
A talented word-smith with wonderful empathy, Jodie has been able to instil hope and positivity to others travelling on a cancer journey and her memorable “Sink or Swim” and “Brave” articles are still lovingly rekindled to inspire new survivors. These writing talents are being utilised again as she is currently involved in helping survivors tell their stories through our current inspirational book project. Jodie has been strongly involved in the dragon boat club and served as Treasurer for several years. As the Dragon Boat Regatta Coordinator for two years, her great legacy was to create a professional management plan for successive coordinators to follow.
On many occasions, Jodie has created public awareness of the Brave Hearts’ cause through the media and public speaking and has always been a caring and supportive person to all members of the Brave Hearts community. We have always been in awe of how she juggles her time between being a wonderful wife, mother, nurse and very willing active advocate for Brave Hearts.
Jodie is currently now one of our community’s respected McGrath Breast Care Nurses. Her expertise in nursing accompanied by her own experiences as a cancer survivor makes her the perfect candidate for her position. Jodie’s valued continual support for Brave Hearts together with her caring and supporting nature makes her an invaluable member of our organisation.
Robyn is the epitome of volunteering and was even recognised by the broader community on Australia Day this year having been awarded Albury City’s Volunteer of the Year. She is forever willing to give of her best at all times. She is kind to all and always sees the good in people. She has given muchof her time to other members – always looking to ensure their safety and well-being.
Robyn has always supported Brave Hearts’ projects. Together with her work with the Albury Wodonga Breast Cancer Support Group (AWBCSG), she has given her all. She actually finds it difficult to separate the two groups as many members belong to both.
Robyn knows no boundaries. She gives 200% to her volunteering efforts and Brave Hearts makes up 150%. Wherever she goes she shares her view that Brave Hearts is the best thing that happened to Albury Wodonga. She wears Brave hearts on her sleeve and in her heart. She has been involved in every project of Brave Hearts post Calendar. She is exuberant in her attitude towards the organisation and outwardly proclaims the true worth of Brave Hearts within our community and beyond.
She is an active member of the Dragon Boat Regatta committee and gives appreciative time each year to its cause. In her volunteering work with AWBCSG and Breast Cancer Network Australia, there is always a very big space on her beautiful stalls for Brave Hearts. She constantly promotes what we do and what we stand for and is also instrumental in distributing our brochures throughout the community.
Robyn always thinks of others before herself and gives other people her time before she thinks of doing something for herself. She is another amazing human being so worthy of recognition.
What would we do without our Bob? He has been exceptional in the way he has given service to the organisation and has always been a quiet achiever in the background since our journey started.
Throughout his association with our organisation, Bob has always shown kindness to others. As his wife has experienced the turmoil of having breast cancer, he has a special affinity with cancer survivors. This has given Bob an insight into how members are coping at various times throughout their membership – whether they are new members perhaps in the throes of treatment or “seasoned” members having come through treatment and hopefully on their way to good health. Whatever their stage in wellness, Bob seems to sense their predicament and approaches them accordingly and always with kindness.
Bob has always supported Brave Hearts’ projects. Many a time he has been there – at times after having had a long haul on the road for many hours with his truck business, there is Bob willing to help out in any way he can. He is always there by his wife’s side, wanting to help out in any way he can. Like Mike, having his own business has been difficult for him – difficult in the fact the he has sometimes chosen to be with Brave Hearts rather than take an extra load on the road. This is his livelihood, yet he continues to put Brave Hearts at the top of his list. Not once, but on many occasions.
Bob is a mainstay in our Regatta. He takes the time to give of his time in so many ways. He is always there for those less fortunate and on occasions displays his emotions on his sleeve. He has delivered many a stirring and inspirational presentation on Regatta day.
He is also instrumental in the success of keeping our “Pleasure Cruises” alive. He gives the participants so much joy by the way he conducts himself each week – encouraging them in a light-hearted way. He inspires people to do better and feel good about themselves. This is one of the core ingredients that keeps Brave Hearts Dragon Boat Club so much alive within our community.
Bob is a wonderful example of someone who (thankfully) has not been touched by cancer himself – but shows great empathy towards others who have. He is the essence of goodness in our organisation and exudes a vibrancy and willingness to give and we all learn dearly from him. He’s one of earth’s angels and it is obvious that Bob has faith in mankind and he never fails to show that to us all. Bob has never held an official membership of a committee but is a member of the committee of life, as it should be.
We know he’ll wear his Silver Heart with great pride.
Associated with Brave Hearts since 2006, Fiona is another member who is a silent achiever and one that there is no measure of time, love and support that she gives to Brave Hearts on the Murray Inc.
Fiona has brilliant administrative skills and fine attention to detail, which is why she currently has the role of Super Treasurer. She spends endless hours behind the scenes fulfilling her role as our astute treasurer a well as a loyal and passionate member. Her position of Treasurer of both Brave Hearts on the Murray and Brave Hearts Dragon Boat Club, which she has held since 2008, has many inherent responsibilities. This is not only in the accounting field but also in ensuring that this incorporated body is answerable to the Consumer Affairs Victoria and the Australian Tax Office in carrying out the affairs of the charitable organisation within their rules and guidelines.
Fiona has spent many hours working closely with auditors and legal people to ensure this transparency as well as giving her time freely in the many projects that our charitable non for profit organisation has achieved. Prior to being Treasurer Fiona was Vice President of Brave Hearts on the Murray Inc.
Fiona always volunteers to help at fundraising activities and regattas. Fiona is committed to providing assistance to all Brave Heart projects. She was always on the Dragon Bloat committee even though she didn’t paddle. Following Brave Hearts’ restructure this year Fiona now totally devotes her expertise and time to Brave Hearts on the Murray Inc. and is the Treasurer of both organisations.
Fiona is a beautiful warm fun loving person. She enjoys a laugh and creates a very relaxed atmosphere socially. She is a big advocate for the organisation’s cause. She promotes Brave Hearts wherever she goes. Fiona is also involved with Breast Cancer Network Australia as a Community Liaison Officer as well as being our representative. She always represents Brave Hearts at a high standard.
Fiona’s award as Volunteer of the Year for Yackandandah and Region within the Indigo Shire proves her commitment to Brave hearts and her community and her ongoing efforts to promote Brave Hearts. She is a firm but fair character. She always places the best interests of Brave Hearts above anything else.
You cannot find a more genuine person than Fiona. She oozes charm, love and warmth and her dedication is impeccable. Fiona is pure gold, and to acknowledge that, we present her with the Silver Heart.
Pauline has volunteered and assisted tirelessly since the calendar days of Brave Hearts. Pauline is another individual in whom you cannot measure the amount of love, support and time she has given to the organisation.
She has been outstanding in her acts of kindness, love, courage and support over and above anything anyone could expect to be given in an organisation, all whilst dealing with her own life issues. Throughout this journey, Pauline has been Treasurer, Secretary and Vice President of Brave Hearts and currently holds the position of Brave Hearts Dragon Boat Club Coordinator.
Pauline continuously creates public awareness of our organisation and tirelessly endeavours to build awareness of who we are and what we aim to achieve.
Pauline has, and continues to give outstanding and dedicated support to all Brave Heart projects, particularly caring for other members during recovery, supporting new members, and throwing her energy behind the Rose Garden, Dragon Boat Club, Lake Development, Coordination of the Dragon Boat Club whilst supporting new and old members, making sure people enjoy and benefit from being part of the experience of being a Brave heart.
Pauline is a stoic member being totally dedicated towards never letting our members forget what our organisation is really about – Love, Courage, Support, Leisure Cruising and Community Awareness. Nominated for her outstanding vision and continued passion for our great cause as a foundation Calendar girl, Pauline has been an inspiration for us all with her dedication, compassion, understanding, professionalism, leadership, and communication skills. Her ability to make all members feel inclusive within the group is an important asset to the club. We know she will proudly wear her Silver Heart.
Always on hand to volunteer at any fundraising function we hold – whether it be for dragon boating or Brave Hearts on the Murray project fundraising, Mel has been a member of Brave Hearts since 2008. Mel is a very kind and thoughtful woman. She is ever mindful of others’ feelings and is very protective towards those who need some tender loving care at appropriate times.
Mel promotes our organisation with fervour. She has a great capacity to include Brave Hearts in any conversation she has with anyone. Her enthusiasm never wanes. She is first to put her hand up for any assistance she can give, whether this be as a participant in a working bee, doing some onerous administration task or talking to people about our organisation. She helps at all fundraising activities and Brave hearts literally is her family outside of her family.
She is committed to informing all of our members of anything that she feels is important to them and happily passes on any relevant information by email to them all. Mel is our Newsletter “whiz kid” and sends the communications to all members weekly, as well as to many “Friends of Brave Hearts on the Murray”. We would like to say that Mel has a very healthy addiction to our organisation, and long may it continue.
To sum up this warm, caring, funny, devoted member, she has a heart of pure gold, is a committee member of Brave Hearts on the Murray Inc., member of Brave Hearts Dragon Boat Club and a member of Brave Hearts Dragon Boat Regatta Committee. If there were any more committees, she’d also be on them!
Judy has probably volunteered for every fundraising function that we have ever held. She has also organised a number of smaller functions to raise money for Brave Hearts, including having planner parties where the hostess money is given to Brave Hearts.
Judy is a very thoughtful and caring individual, she always looks for the best in people, and even if that’s hard to find she treats them with kindness anyway! She is always willing to help anyone in need and she is there by members’ sides, even though they may not know she’s there. Judy is a quiet achiever and would rather stay busily in the background than be up front.
Judy is instrumental in bringing our cause to the attention of many members of our community, including those of the local soccer clubs. They in turn continue to donate generously to Brave Hearts. She is always there when we fundraise or promote Brave Hearts and gives of her time to many of our projects. She does so with enthusiasm and a genuine wish to please. She is a tireless worker and is such a proud Brave Heart.
Judy also has looked after our merchandise since we started selling items, and this has grown over the years. This is a tiresome task at times as it means that she has to keep an accurate account of what has been sold and puts in orders at short notice.
Judy has been on the Brave Hearts Dragon Boat Committee from the beginning. She takes an active role in the running of the club, having for a number of years acted as Secretary. She has up until a couple of months ago been our representative on the Lake Users Group Committee and she has successfully kept us informed of matters arising from their meetings.
Judy promotes and supports every facet of Brave Hearts and breast cancer awareness
She supports and encourages those she meets in an understanding and sympathetic manner. He is a very hard worker an always prepared to go the extra mile, a good communicator, is well organised and is simply a beautiful person. For all her attributes, constant achievements and continuous support to Brave Hearts, Judy is such a worthy Silver Heart recipient.
Thelma has been a dedicated member of Brave Hearts on the Murray since 2005 when she joined the Dragon Boat Building Project and worked assiduously hard each week never missing a session, in the nine months it took to build our beautiful boat. She also was one very enthusiastic paddler learning the art and skills of paddling, despite her crippling physical limitations that many of us would have used as an excuse to just be a spectator.
Thelma didn’t stop with that but then became a very busy committee member who fund-raised madly and at every opportunity represented us and raised the profile of who we were and what we were there for – that is supporting people affected by a cancer diagnosis.
Thelma participated at the International Breast Cancer Regatta in Caloundra in 2007, after being at the helm of a major fund-raiser that raised $7000 towards this trip of a lifetime for our breast cancer survivors and their supporters. This regatta was especially special to Thelma as she was able to be a proud representative of Australia – something she had dreamed about and to think this was her up and coming 70th year!!! The other thrill was she was able to paddle in front of her treasured son David who lives in Queensland. She has also represented Brave Hearts at the Sydney Chinese New Year Festival and at the Hobart Dragons Abreast Festival.
Thelma then successfully took on the role of Coordinator of our very first Dragon Boat Regatta in 2009 and provided an amazing benchmark for us to build on, for our successive regattas. She created the first Regatta Management Manual for this event which has been used for each regatta since and was also acknowledged and utilised by the Victorian Dragon Boat Committee as a standard for other clubs to aspire to. Thelma was presented with an achievement award by Dragon Boat Victoria at their annual dinner in 2009 in recognition of her work coordinating the inaugural Brave Hearts Regatta.
Thelma’s continued participation on the Brave Hearts on the Murray Inc committee and input into other projects have continued to be an important part of her life despite ongoing medical problems affecting her mobility. Her presence at the working bees at the Brave Hearts Memorial Rose Garden and the lake are remembered fondly and who could forget the scrumptious scones and yo-yo biscuits that she always made to keep our energy levels up.
Even though Thelma spent such a long time in hospital she still continued to help out with committee chores from her hospital bed. This remarkable unassuming lady is an outstanding example of an individual having a spirit that will overcome any adversity when others may have given up and a positive caring attitude that constantly lives our motto of love, courage and support. She undeniably has a “brave heart” and is truly a deserving recipient of our Silver Heart Award.
On January 11th 2008, a little lady with a big heart, namely June Joynson, joined Brave Hearts on the Murray Inc. and our dragon boat club and during the past seven years has worked constantly and assiduously in many areas of our organisation.
June has been our reliable drummer for so many regattas we have competed in and has also be known to drum for other clubs in between our races in order to help them out.
June has willingly shared her skills and experience gained at St John’s Ambulance to work alongside Mira Kapur and upgrade our First Aid policies and was instrumental in the purchase of a defibrillator for our club.
She has been a regular member of many Dragon Boat and Regatta committees and is the first to put her hand up for medial tasks such as toilet cleaning rosters or providing appreciative food for working bee volunteers.
The tasks of the compilation of our floating hearts which are a very much special integral part of our remembrance ceremonies are so appreciated and valued.
Despite her young age of 78 (!), June’s presence at Relay For Life or any fund-raiser can always be relied upon and she always can be seen proudly representing Brave Hearts at many community functions. Her kindness and support to many members is constantly witnessed and her zest for life, determination, and wonderful sense of humour is admired and loved by so many.
All these qualities unquestionably fulfill the Silver Heart requirements – June is truly a deserving recipient.
We have much pleasure in presenting June with this much deserved award.
JOHN (BLACKIE) BLACK
John (aka Blackie) Black has been a part of the family of Brave Hearts since its inception.
From the time of the Brave Hearts Calendar, John has been instrumental in promoting the cause of Brave Hearts on the Murray and has always been available to help out with any of the fundraising and promotional events held by Murray Inc. and Brave Hearts Dragon Boat Club.
He has an extremely competitive spirit and is a vital component of any dragon boat event or race; however, he goes about his sport in a quiet and disciplined manner.
Blackie’s cheerful disposition always shines through when speaking to or of his fellow Brave Hearts friends and their families.
His attention to detail in all that he sets out to do came to the forefront when he took up a managerial, yet conciliatory role when our dear dragon boat club hit rough waters. He steered the club through a most challenging time and brought sensibility and order to a chaotic situation.
Blackie’s dealings with Council and the Lake Users Group – advocating on behalf of our organisation – has always borne fruit and he has been relentless and unwavering in bettering the conditions at Gateway Lakes.
He played an important role in the building of our beloved Brave Hearts dragon boat. He continuously liaised with Rice Graphics, lent a hand whenever needed in sanding and towing the boat and quietly and thoughtfully kept us all in order.
Blackie has competed at world-class dragon boating level and is a regular paddler at the many regattas the club competes in. He is always willing to help with sweeping, training community teams for our Brave Hearts Regatta and steps forward to help out with just about anything that is asked of him.
He may be a past New Zealand All-Black but, to us, he is also a true-blue Brave Heart and always will be. He is highly thought of by all of our members and has gained the trust and admiration of all who meet him.
He always works tirelessly in the background, never seeking the limelight. He has, and always will be a tremendous support to his wife – our beloved President Jenny. It’s now Blackie’s turn to stand in the sunshine; to be recognised for his many years of dedication to Brave Hearts.
We sincerely congratulate you Blackie on receiving the 2016 Brave Hearts Silver Heart Award, which you so richly deserve.
It was in 2007 when Maxine first attended a Brave Heart function when she travelled by bus with us to Sydney attend the BCNA Field of Women at the SCG. It was here that she first showed her caring nature by looking after a lady who was still going through chemotherapy treatment and was feeling quite unwell at times.
From that weekend onward, Maxine became more involved with our organisation and has given outstanding service to Brave Hearts, volunteering her time to many Brave Heats on the Murray projects over the past 11 years.
She has been a member of the Dragon Boat committee and has worked tirelessly on the regatta committees, in addition to working as coordinator of our annual regattas for two years. Her role in recruiting the community teams for our Community Dragon Boat Regattas has been invaluable along with seeking donated prizes from businesses for our annual major raffle. Her popularity across the greater community and her respected commitment to Brave Hearts in these two roles have definitely been major factors to her success in these roles for which we have been ever so thankful and greatly appreciative of.
Maxine is also an extremely capable, recognised and awarded drummer and paddler for the Dragon Boat Club and is very willing to pass on her expertise and experience to others in the role of drumming. She constantly cares for the welfare of her fellow paddlers and her beautiful smile embodies everything the club stands for.
As a cancer survivor she constantly conveys empathy to other survivors and carers, continually offering encouragement, positivity and a zest for fun and life. She regularly shows her appreciation and expresses her gratitude to anyone who gives to the club with personal phone calls thanking and complimenting them on their input.
Maxine has been described as a big contributor to the “soul” of our dragon boat club. We thank her for her generosity, dedication and warm heart. She is truly a deserving recipient of the Silver Heart.
It was an honour to present Julie Bowater with Brave Hearts on the Murray’s Silver Heart award for 2019.
Ever since Julie joined Brave Hearts some seven years ago her passion and dedication to Brave Hearts has been outstanding and unwavering. Julie wears her Brave Hearts logo and associated uniforms with pride and passionately promotes Brave Hearts at every opportunity. She constantly conveys empathy and has inspired many people with whom she engages in her various roles to keep going and believe in themselves.
Julie is a competent, active and greatly respected committee member of both Brave Hearts on the Murray Inc and Brave Hearts Dragon Boat Club and has been a skilled and respected Finance Officer of the latter for the past three years which has lightened the load of the Treasurer tremendously.
Julie never knows how to say no and is the first to put up her hand to organise, facilitate or assist in any Committee activity, BBQ, Fundraiser, working bee or any other Brave Heart activity. She is such a respected member and active volunteer of the Wig Library and Pamper Days and she considers nothing too difficult to attempt. In her own words, she’s always willing to “give it a go” and ultimately success follows.
Her hard work and diligent efforts are continually witnessed and highly valued in the Dragon Boat Club. As well as being a competitive paddling member of our club she also attained her level 3 Sweep accreditation which has been such an invaluable asset at regattas, proving her proficiency at all levels including the difficult 2km races in all weathers and prevailing conditions.
Sunday afternoons will often find Julie sweeping our important Leisure Paddling sessions constantly imparting love, kindness and encouragement to the attending paddlers, many of whom are cancer survivors, or have impaired physical abilities; new members or just love being out on the water with this great crew.
Julie’s excellent communication and organisational skills were instrumental in ensuring highly successful community and sporting Dragon Boat regattas when she was one of the hard-working Coordinators for two years.
Constantly looking for ways to create public awareness of Brave Hearts and our projects, Julie was instrumental in organising the Veolia cardboard and paper sponsorship which has been a significant financial benefit to our Dragon Boat club.
Thank you, Julie Bowater from the bottom of our hearts. You are simply amazing and so loved and appreciated by us all. Your dedication to our cause is exemplary and you are a constant reminder of our organisation’s values of courage, love and support. We are honoured to have you in our numbers, and thrilled to be able to recognise your unrelenting devotion and commitment, with a Silver Heart.
Debbie Kent was awarded a Silver Heart award in 2017 for her tireless work in fundraising for Brave Hearts. For 9 years she took on the Pink Lunch Day held at North Albury Football and Netball Club which raised $90,000 that has been used to support cancer patients and their families through out our area. Debbie has continuously supported Brave Hearts over an extended period of time and exemplifies our motto of CVourage, Love and Support.