Over the past few weeks, I have been thinking about column ideas for the December/January issue. I thought about various topics focused on rejuvenation, which seemed timely as we see out 2017 and move into a new year. Then as the Christmas decorations started to come out around Newcastle and my children started to talk about what Santa might bring them, I got to thinking about what the underlying message of Christmas really is. I imagine this is somewhat different for everyone, but for me, it is essentially about appreciating family and community, and the humanity of helping one another with kindness and compassion. This is the understanding of Christmas I want my children to grow in their minds, and what I would like to talk about in this issue.

We are lucky enough to live in a city where the best of human nature is all around us. I am often surprised and heartened to learn about people I know who despite busy lives make the time to help others. Whether it is volunteering their time and resources, organising fundraising activities, or being involved in a charity.

Two local charities we made the decision to be involved with this year are, firstly the Dana Ball Lung Cancer fundraiser supported by the Cancer Council. Dana is a 46-year-old Aussie bloke with three children who was recently diagnosed with Lung Cancer. Dana has never smoked, and one of the goals of the fundraiser is to raise awareness that this disease also affects non-smokers. The second charity we have partnered with this year is one of the now better known Newcastle charities - the Mark Hughes Foundation (MHF). Mark and Kirralee Hughes, and Events and Sponsorship Coordinator Kris Buderus, have done a remarkable job of both raising awareness of brain cancer and the funds needed to research its cure. This year Avery Plastic Surgery pledged to help the MHF by donating money for every person operated on, running the Sydney Blackmore’s Marathon and donating 10% of the funds raised from our opening night art exhibition. Our Artists in Residence also donated 10% of the value of their work sold on the night.

We now have eight artists exhibiting in our Practice. They are all based in Newcastle, and we have made a commitment to them to show their work without restriction and at no cost to them. They include Donna Buck, who is a contemporary abstract painter. Donna has donated her paintings to over five charitable fundraisers this year alone, including to the HMRI (Hunter Medical Research Institute). Alison Pateman has a number of her Newcastle themed reduction lino prints hanging in the Practice. Alison teaches art and is regularly involved in fundraising for the Cancer Council, including being part of a team in the Relay for Life. Sandy Lee, renowned for her spiral paintings, works within the adult disability sector and volunteers her time with an aboriginal art class at her daughters’ school. June Orr is an abstract and landscape artist who volunteers her services as an art teacher including with children within the ‘Red Zone’ at Salt Ash, an area contaminated by elevated levels of toxic chemicals.

There are people all over Newcastle who when you scratch their modest surface you discover donate their time, resources, and energy to people in need. It is one of the reasons I love living in Newcastle and feel privileged to do so. Of course, I would like my children to grow up with the idea that the magic of Christmas includes Santa and flying reindeer, but as they grow I would like them also to internalise what I believe to be the core values behind that magic – good-heartedness, kindness, generosity, and essentially humanity.

My New Years resolution is to find new ways to live this magic, not just at Christmas, but also throughout 2018 as a business and personally, as a friend, husband, and dad.

More information about the charities and fundraising efforts mentioned above can be found at:
www.gofundme.com.au - Search Dana Ball.

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