Outwardly I’m excited, because he’s excited. I’m happy, because he’s happy. And I’m ready, because he’s SO ready.
But, on the inside I’m a little heavy-hearted. Okay maybe more than a little.
Because for 10 years, I’ve had a shadow.
First it was just one shadow, and boy did that take some adjusting to. But then it grew to two, and then three, and it was as if they had always been there. They gave my life extraordinary meaning and purpose, and made me feel worthy, brave and strong.
During some moments in that decade though, I admit that I wished I could shake them. Just for a day, an hour, even a minute. Just to have a second on my own, where those little tailgaters weren’t wholly dependent on me for absolutely everything.
But for the most part, those shadows were the greatest blessing in my life. They were part of me, and my identity had become tightly wrapped up in them.
Those precious little shadows followed me everywhere, looked up to me for guidance and reassurance, and despite all my failings, loved me unconditionally with every inch of their souls.
They taught me deep lessons about myself that I couldn’t possibly have learned on my own. Things like patience, selflessness, vulnerability, forgiveness, progress over perfection, and the art of spinning plates (constantly spinning those plates).
One by one though, gradually my shadows began to disappear into the school yard. And while there was a small sense of loss with each one, there was an overwhelming feeling of excitement and pride as they began to spread their wings. And there was relief too, as the relentless nature of mothering young babies and toddlers began to ease.
But today, the last of my shadows is gone.
In the blink of an eye, he’s off like the others to discover the big wide world on his own.
And I know that come tomorrow, my shadow-less figure will be the new norm for me. It’ll be like the time before never existed and I’ll hit a happy new stride. Because that’s life.
And that’s precisely why I’m feeling a little lost in this moment – because it all passes by so quickly.
I know there’s nothing unique or special about my story. It’s part of the memoir of every mother before me who has walked this path, and is walking this path with me today.
And when I put it into perspective it really isn’t a big deal.
Except that it is. Today, it is.
So, if you, like me, have just hugged your baby tight and walked bravely out of the classroom without that adored little shadow in tow, I’m walking beside you. Not behind you like they were, but beside you all the way.
Fly high today little Geddy. I’m gonna miss you.
A huge thank you to our #spreadingthegoodstuff community for joining us last night for episode 4 of our live conversation series at Junction Moama.
These live events are a deep passion of ours, not only because they indulge our love for spreading positivity through good news stories, but above all because the extraordinary people we interview on the Q&A couch change us, and our audience, from the inside out.
And last night was absolutely no exception.
Three years ago, aged 19, Jason Clymo became paralysed from the waist down after a fall during a night out with university mates.
In adjusting to the enormous changes and his new ‘life with wheels’ Jason shared how ‘mental is everything’ and his family and friends have been instrumental in supporting his recovery and emotional strength.
He is on a crusade to make diversity the new ‘normal’ and for people of all minority groups to be featured in mainstream media and in advertising campaigns.
His work with Wink Models has given him an important platform to spread his message and he won’t rest until he activates real change.
Jason’s end game is for everyone to feel loved, included and celebrated. He wants to empower people to stand up and play a role – to take notice of the poor representation of people living with a disability in the media, and across all sectors, and to demand equality and inclusion for all.
“My number one goal is not to walk again,” says Jason. “My priority is to be healthy and happy and to ensure that everyone is loved and celebrated. I’d rather have the disability and have this outlook (being aware of the need for diversity) than be ignorant.”
Take a peek at this short clip from last night to hear this extraordinary young man in full flight about the role we can all play in making diversity the new norm.
Jason, thank you for sharing your beautiful mind with us – for cracking yourself wide open, for your honesty, optimism, strength and vulnerability. We know you are destined to take your important story to a global audience, and we’re behind you all the way in spreading your message as far and wide as possible.
Lee & Christy
Hats off to the hard working crew over at EM Events on the eve of their inaugural Perricoota Pop & Pour Festival.
There is such a playful buzz in the air for this brand new homegrown event and we can’t wait to pop the cork with the crowds on the festival trail tomorrow.
The mercury is set for a balmy 31 degrees, the wine will be flowing and live tunes will be swelling out across the grapevines. It’ll be a happy chance to stoke the bonds of friendship with mates – old and new.
Our duo of towns is well-known for its thriving festivals scene – in fact it’s one of the features we love most about life here on the mighty Murray. Not only do we have boundless opportunities for amazing events, live music, bars, wineries, and eateries, but it’s all set against a backdrop of one of Australia’s prettiest, and most tranquil, natural landscapes.
Travel anywhere across this wide, brown, open land and you’ll be hard pressed to find a place quite like our EM. She radiates the most perfect vibe of urban chic and country hospitality.
If this fast-paced, technologically-wired world we live in has caused you to lose sight of Echuca Moama’s beauty, and you need reminding of all the wonder we have here on our doorstep, we suggest you get along to Pop & Pour this weekend and take a fresh-eyed look. Because seriously, the magic is everywhere.
See you there folks!
If you have ever doubted the power of community spirit then meet Liz Dillon. She’ll challenge anyone who doesn’t believe country towns are the heart and soul of our country, and it’s not hard to understand why.
In her small community of Kyabram and the surrounding districts, Liz and her army of volunteers, have raised almost a quarter of a million dollars to help families in the local area directly impacted by cancer.
Liz is the epitome of community spirit: kind, passionate and generous, and has a ‘can do’ attitude. She has built a career teaching vocals and performing arts to kids at Dillmac Entertainment and after years fundraising for Redkite, a national charity providing support to children with cancer, she realised there were people within her own community battling cancer and in need of financial and emotional support.
“One year we handed over a cheque to Redkite for $84,000 and I suddenly thought: wouldn’t it be better if the money could stay in the town?” Liz said.
Coinciding with the sudden loss of her father-in-law to cancer, she decided it was time to take action, and with the support of her husband Max McKenzie and colleague Andrew Moore, the Kyabram Gift was born.
Six years later, The Gift is a fully incorporated, tax-deductible fund with a board and subcommittee of 14 members and countless volunteers who generously donate their time to assist at key events. Through unwavering community support The Gift raises approximately $150,000 annually, and has now raised in excess of $450,000 since its inception.
The Gift board represents a wide sector of the community and is made up of business owners; parents; youths; professionals; doctors and nurses; people who have had cancer or lost loved ones to cancer; people who are new to the area; and life-long locals. And all are united in the purpose to lighten the load of others.
This inspiring organisation’s winning formula for fundraising includes set events throughout the year that encourage involvement from the entire community, not only to raise money but to increase awareness of early cancer detection and provide fun and connection for people in an otherwise dark time.
The highlight on The Gift social calendar is the annual Gala Ball. More than 350 people attended this year’s event in November, and it has become so popular there is now a ballot for tickets! Eight people also volunteered to lose their locks for the cause and ran their own fundraising campaign throughout the year. Combined with the proceeds from ticket sales and auctions on the night a staggering $60,000 was raised.
The ever popular, Monster Town Garage Sale encourages people to host a site at their house and sell unwanted good with all proceeds going to The Gift. This year’s Monster Garage Sale will be held in Kyabram on December 3, so why not go for a Sunday drive, see what goodies you can find and help support this worthy cause.
Other key events include the Purple Weekend and Purple Sporting Weekend, where local schools, workplaces, businesses, shopping precincts and sporting clubs in the district are encouraged to decorate their premises, wear purple and raise money anyway they can.
To maintain momentum, The Gift is constantly looking for new ways to fundraise and also uses movie nights, Easter raffles and other minor events throughout the year to ensure there is always money in the bank for emergencies and to help those who really need it – when they need it.
“The community has really embraced The Gift and we now service a population of approximately 22,000 including Kyabram, Tongala, Girgarre, Stanhope, Undera, Rushworth, Merrigum and Lancaster,” Liz said.
“We have developed a fantastic working relationship with Kyabram District Health, its team of amazing district nurses and the local counseling services to try and capture all those who need our support,” she said.
People can be referred to the service or an application form is available to anyone who wishes to apply directly for funds. Elected members of the board then decide who receives the gifts based on individual needs.
The gifts are always given in the form of a voucher, product or payment of a utility or other bill. Cash is never handed to any recipient and names of recipients are kept confidential.
To date, The Gift has supported more than 100 families providing items such as:
“With the support of some great local tradies and businesses who have given their support and volunteered their time for free, we have even renovated a bathroom and built and furnished a granny flat to provide safe and comfortable spaces for families with members undergoing treatment.”
Not only does The Gift provide financial and emotional support but it also provides hope.
“We all know the pain and suffering a cancer diagnosis can bring to a family so we try not to focus on what it takes from people but rather what it can give,” Liz said.
‘We wish we didn’t have to help anyone else but there are still so many positives you can take away from the experience – the kindness and generosity of people, new friendships and learnings about yourself and others,” she said.
Sometimes just knowing that someone else cares can be the greatest gift of all.
#spreadingthegoodstuff #thekyabramgift #supportingfamilieswithcancer #thepowerofcommunity
We’re excited to announce the fourth episode in our live Spreading the Good Stuff series, with the remarkable Jason Clymo in conversation at Junction Moama on Thursday December 7.
At age 19, a fall during a night out with university mates caused Jason to break his back, suffer a spinal cord injury and become paralysed from the waist down.
This was a devastating blow for Jason, in his second year of medicine at Monash University, and any plans he had for his future were instantly derailed.
However, fast-forward to 2017 and surprisingly Jason’s focus is not fixed on regaining the life he had prior to his accident or in search of a miracle cure for paraplegia.
Remarkably, this young man is focused on what he can do to support other people living with disability to live a full and ‘inclusive’ life.
Jason’s number one goal is for inclusion for all and he has a strong belief that everyone deserves to feel loved and celebrated – regardless of their ability.
This personal mission has taken Jason on a journey of discovery and down the path of a modelling career, which is quickly becoming much more than a hobby.
So far this year Jason has found himself featured in a four-page photographic spread in the Herald Sun’s Stellar Magazine, in a national advertising campaign for fashion label Target and featured on award-winning, nightly news show The Project.
Not to mention landing a contract with highly respected, national modelling agency WINK Models, where he has been hailed as the next ‘big thing’ for diversity in the modelling industry.
We featured Jason on our Spreading the Good Stuff blog in February when WINK described him as ‘a guy who has turned a negative into a positive by becoming an advocate for diversity’ and it’s no surprise others are taking notice, both here and overseas.
Jason’s star is well and truly on the rise and as the bookings and marketing officer for the Port of Echuca Discovery Centre, he is currently juggling his day job with life and modelling work, including his runway debut in October at FashionAble, an event by Queensland disability support provider Multicap.
He is also an inclusion ambassador with both internationally recognised Models of Diversity and Starting with Julius – both striving for diversity in the modelling industry. And this serendipitous chain of events has not only allowed Jason to carve out a modelling career of his own but created a greater awareness of the lack of representation of disabled people in the media and in advertising campaigns.
Altering society’s perception about modelling for marketing and advertising is what motivates Jason to get out of bed in the morning, despite the daily physical challenges of life in a wheel chair.
From the early days following his accident he has chosen to focus on the positive and surround himself with people who help support him and his passionate cause.
We first met Jason at our first Spreading the Good Stuff live conversation episode with Katrina Myers in June 2016 where he explained he was drawn to the event because of our positive approach and purpose to spread the good news.
Jason believes we all make a choice every day about how we approach life and its many challenges and we can’t wait to share more about how he manages to stay so focused and driven by his goals when he joins us on December 7.
Join us at Junction for a remarkable evening of illuminating conversation with Jason Clymo My Life With Wheels and book your tickets today for our final event of 2017.
Tickets are $30, strictly limited and must be purchased prior to the event day. Included in your ticket price is a complimentary glass of sparkling wine, and nibbles.
Tickets and further details available here.
We look forward to seeing you there!
Christy and Lee
*Image courtesy of H Stewart for Stella Magazine
When the clock strikes 11 on this warm, sunny Saturday morning in November, what thoughts will be running through your head?
Will you be making plans for a lunchtime picnic by the river with family and friends in this glorious spring sunshine; contemplating an afternoon in the garden; or perhaps planning a night out on the town with friends?
Whatever it is, be sure to pop those thoughts aside for just a minute, to imagine a world where such simple pleasures and freedoms did not exist.
Because that could very well have been our reality if not for the many members of our armed forces who sacrificed their lives in the line of duty over the years, to protect the very freedoms we so often take for granted.
No matter your feelings on war, on this day we must cast them aside to acknowledge and commemorate our past.
Through the rose-coloured lense through which we choose to view the world, war is never, ever the answer. But we know that’s a privileged position many of our ancestors were not able to take.
So in this moment – the 11th hour, on the 11th day of the 11th month – let’s remember that first modern world conflict that brought about the mobilisation of over 70 million people and left between 9 and 13 million dead.
Let’s observe the moment when hostilities ceased on the Western Front, ending the Great War (World War I) and dedicate our thoughts to those brave soldiers who died fighting to protect our precious way of life.
Lest We Forget
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and as someone who has personally battled this cruel and ugly disease, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to urge other women to be breast aware and shine a light on a handy new initiative developed by an inspiring local lady.
Breast cancer remains the most common cancer among Australian women with a staggering 17,586 expected to be diagnosed this year alone.
As you look around at your mother, sisters, daughters and group of girlfriends the frightening statistic is 1 in 8 of you will be diagnosed with breast cancer by the time you are 85.
A woman’s risk of breast cancer increases with age, with the majority of women diagnosed between 50-69.
However, breast cancer also occurs in younger women and it is estimated that in 2017, 841 women between the ages of 20 and 39 will be diagnosed.
The good news – early detection and improved screening have resulted in very high survival rates.
Finding breast cancer early provides the best chance of surviving the disease so ALL women should be breast aware, know what is normal for them and be regularly checking and feeling their breasts for any changes.
Changes to look for include:
● a new lump or lumpiness in your breast or underarm
● a change in the size or shape of your breast
● a change to the nipple, such as crusting, ulcer, redness or inversion
● a nipple discharge that occurs without squeezing
● a change in the skin of your breast such as redness or dimpling
● an unusual pain that doesn’t go away.
Most changes aren’t due to breast cancer but it’s important to see your doctor without delay if you notice any of these changes.
Local mother to five girls Sharnee McCoy, knows all too well the importance of being breast aware.
After feeling a suspicious lump in her right breast as she simply rolled over in bed one night, she thankfully took immediate action and in April this year was given the heart breaking news that she did in fact have an aggressive stage 3 breast cancer.
But her story, to selflessly turn her own personal battle into something to ease the burden on others, is truly inspiring.
Like many women who undergo breast surgery to remove cancer, Sharnee also had all the lymph nodes removed from under her right arm, putting her at risk of developing lymphedema. Unable to use her right arm for any treatment, blood tests or blood pressure monitoring she began to look for a product to easily advise healthcare professionals but to no avail. This ignited a fire in the courageous young mothers belly….
“After I spoke to Bianca Fleming, Echuca Regional Health McGrath Breast Care Nurse, I realised there was a broader need for this, so I set off to design and produce a pink arm band that could be accessible to other women in the same situation to help reduce the risk of lymphedema,” says Sharnee.
With the generous support of the Little Blue Towels Project in Echuca, Sharnee’s Bands were born and are now available for free to anyone across Victoria and parts of NSW who has had lymph nodes removed as a result of breast cancer.
“I didn’t do this for the recognition but I am incredibly proud to show my girls that we created something really positive out of a negative situation,” Sharnee says.
To get your free pink arm band contact your local Breast Care Nurse or Oncology department today.
Breast cancer doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t respect age, gender, race, ethnicity, wealth, status or a healthy lifestyle. So don’t think because you are young or don’t have a family history that you are safe. The harsh reality is that you or someone you know or love will experience breast cancer during their lifetime.
So when was the last time you checked your boobies?
Women between the ages of 50-74 are entitled to two free mammograms a year with BreastScreen Victoria so book yours in today on 132 050.
Younger women can download the free Curve Lurve App from the McGrath Foundation to learn how to be more proactive in their breast health.
If you or anyone you know is suffering from Breast Cancer, support from the McGrath Breast Care Nurse is free and anyone can access the service on 03 5485 5234.
Learn to love those boobies ladies because they could save your life.
#spreadingthegoodstuff #breastcareawarenessmonth #bebreastaware #sharneesbands #mcgrathbreastcarenurse
Firstly – thank you! We hope you loved it.
And secondly, we’re sending you a virtual high five, because we’ve received word this week that ITP charity partner, Echuca Moama Girls Night Out will receive a huge wod of cash from the day – 5000 smackeroos to be exact!
100% of these funds will go directly to the GNO Oncology Department Supportive Care Fund at Echuca Regional Health to support those in our community fighting cancer. The GNO fund helps cover the hidden costs of treatment including counselling sessions, oncology massage, wigs, alternative therapies, lymphodeama garments, rent payments, fuel cards, acommodation, home care and child care.
ITP was founded by Moama Bowling Club in 2015, and since then has contributed a massive $20,000 to the GNO charity.
It’s an extraordinary event – not only for its support of GNO – but also for the opportunities it provides women in small rural communities like ours.
We don’t often get the chance to take time out from our hectic lives to do that all important work on ourselves. But it’s vitally necessary for each and every one of us if we are to live fulfilled lives both at work and at home.
To be able to put everything else in our world aside and to have a full day dedicated to exploring what’s working for us, what’s not, and where we can grow, would usually require a trip to the city. And given the often logistical nightmare that goes along with that, it’s a luxury many of us rarely take. So having this opportunity right here on our doorstep is a game changer for women in this part of the world.
And while having access to top speakers on home soil is a vital ingredient to ITP, the real magic happens out on the floor. It’s in connecting face-to-face with other like-minded women to share and nurture ideas, and to support and cheer one another through the obstacles and opportunities that life in the country throws our way.
So as event partners and co-hosts of ITP, thank you from the bottom of our hearts for embracing this homegrown event for regional women.
We look forward to welcoming you back again in 2018.
We’re #spreadingthegoodstuff this week for this beautiful place we call home and for the great work taking place behind the scenes at Echuca Moama Tourism to showcase our destination to travellers far and wide.
In case you hadn’t heard, EMT has a new leader at the helm – and while she’s only been here a few months, she’s already having a deep impact.
Kathryn Mackenzie comes to EM from the City of Greater Bendigo, where she was tourism manager for more than 20 years.
She’s vibrant, engaging, inclusive and unquestionably creative and her vision to develop Echuca Moama’s reputation as an authentic experience-based destination is one to get excited about.
And she has the runs on the board. Kathryn assisted Bendigo in becoming one of the leading cultural, heritage and arts destinations in Australia – and her marketing of the Marilyn Monroe Exhibition took out bronze at the national tourism awards in Darwin last year.
We’ve been fortunate to work closely with Kathryn in recent weeks, interviewing local identities and writing the content for Echuca Moama’s new official visitor’s guide and we’re genuinely excited about the direction she’s taking our stunning region.
She believes storytelling has a key role to play in developing and spotlighting the enormous array of ‘experiences’ on offer in this unique part of the world, and we couldn’t agree more.
She is deeply passionate about developing strong and collaborative partnerships, and she believes we, the locals, have a major advocacy role to play in breathing new life into the place we call home.
Well she can sign us up! We seriously love nothing more than spruiking the virtues of our riverside paradise.
You only have to take a look at our little side project #loveEM – which we started on social media in 2012 as a platform to promote and celebrate all that is awesome about Echuca Moama.
We really are blessed to live in one of the most captivatingly beautiful and endearing places on earth, and if we as a collective of ‘locals’ can shout that to the rafters, the people will come.
Stay tuned for the release of the new Official Visitor’s Guide next month. It’s coming together beautifully thanks to Echuca Moama Print and Design and is jam-packed with gorgeous imagery and lovely stories about the many hidden gems and experiences on offer in our region.
And if you’re not doing it already, get proud and loud about this place we call home. There’s nowhere else in the world quite like it.
We’re super excited this week to be Spreading the Good Stuff for our good friend and uber talented local musician Benny Walker who recently launched a brand new single Ghost, which looks set to take his burgeoning career to even greater heights.
Ghost debuted at #1 on the iTunes Blues chart and check out some of the love Benny has received from industry gurus since its release last week on ABC’s Double J with Myf Warhurst:
“Ghost oozes class. Sophisticated and soulful, it’s another step on Benny’s Walkers road to superstardom,” – Jeff Jenkins
“A year ago Benny Walker showed potential. Now he’s the real deal, a soul singer as ready to sing about the world as about the heart, in a rich song that sounds old-before-its-time yet anything but old-fashioned,” – Bernard Zuel
There’s no doubt Benny Walker has ‘arrived’ and if you, like us, have tracked his career since its early days you’ll join us in celebrating his new ‘coming of age’ sound. And we just can’t wait to hear more when the full EP Undercover is released on Monday September 11.
Like many Echuca Moama locals, we are so proud of Benny’s talents, but it’s his ability to stay ‘local’ and humble, which sets him apart.
As a proud Yorta Yorta man, who grew up playing in the bush and swimming in the Murray River, Benny holds strong to the premise that he creates music, and dedicates the majority of his time touring, simply because he is drawn to it.
“It’s an unexplainable thing… but I do it because it’s always enjoyable and it makes me feel good, and always has,” Benny said.
Despite the hard slog as an independent artist and countless nights away from his gorgeous wife Fiona and 14 month-old son Archie, Benny is living the dream and explains how it has provided him the freedom to fully enjoy life.
“I decided I didn’t want to sit around and wait for my life to happen… success can mean something different to everyone and I wish I had gone for it earlier,” he said.
Benny is taking his Wine, Women and Soul tour on the road throughout September and October and you can catch him LIVE in Echuca Moama at The Mill, where he will play his new EP to an intimate audience, which is guaranteed to be teeming with family and friends.
“I just love playing in Echuca Moama and I’ve always felt drawn back home… to family, friends and my ancestral connections – way back,” Benny said.
Benny is super excited about his new sound and the direction he has been brave enough to steer his music, thanks to ARIA award-winning producer Jan Skubiszewski who has worked with the likes of Dan Sultan, Cat Empire and John Butler Trio.
“There’s a huge difference between my previous work and Undercover… it’s an evolution and I’m out of my comfort zone… but you have to be open to it,” he said.
In the past couple of years Benny has played some of the country’s finest music festivals and supported many of Australia’s most talented acts, he was also named Best Aboriginal Act of the Year at the 2016 Age Music Victoria Awards, and you might have heard him as a guest on ABC radio on numerous occasions.
This guy is going places and we are privileged to share just some of his inspiring story.
We suggest you ‘do yourself a favour’ and come along to The Mill on October 15 to see for yourself how this local lad has emerged as a real deal on the Australian music scene.
See you there…
#spreadingthegoodstuff #bennywalker #localtalent #therealdeal