by MELANIE HEARSE
The image of a cheeky three year old Elliot Parish, caught with remnants of the Milo he’d been drinking spread across his cheeks, and a somber frown in place at having the moment captured, has become symbolic of the charity started in his honour, the Telethon Adventurers. Established by the Parish’s and former AFL star Peter Wilson in 2010, their ultimate goal is finding a cure for childhood cancer which took their youngest son Elliot’s life in February of 2011, when he was only four years old.
Emily explained in May 2009, when Elliot was only two, he turned quickly from a small boy that ran the house, and counted eating butter from a tub under the table amongst his favourite feasts, into one who experienced bouts of vomiting that spread over three or four nights at a go, and ‘wobbled’ when he walked.
“One day I was talking to a close friend about him, and she said she knew a little girl that had the same symptoms and had been diagnosed with a brain tumor. She asked me if we’d had him checked out for that, so I talked to Elliot’s pediatrician, expecting the idea to be dismissed, but his pediatrician booked him in for some scans.”
Following a CT scan at Princess Margaret Hosiptal, Emily was asked how far away Rick was, as they wanted to talk to both of them together. “For me, the hospital room began to spin. When he arrived, they told us the CT scan showed Elliot had a brain tumour, 4cm in diameter, at the base of his brain. They diagnosed him with Medulloblastoma, the most common form of brain tumour found in children.”
“We were told he had a 30 per cent chance of survival, and we thought this was better than no chance and decided go ahead with treatment. Some parents hear far worse, they are told to take their child home because there is nothing that can be done, so we had plenty of fight.”
It was at this point that Rick starting asking what he could do to help Elliot and other kids like him fight childhood cancer. With the simple response of ‘we need money – for research and tools to help with that research’, he and Peter Wilson immediately organised for a group of 20 people from Perth to tackle Mont Blanc France, with the goal of raising money through people sponsoring them for the climb. Climbing the highest mountain in the Alps netted each climber more than $20,000 to contribute to the project, and the charity made $960,000 in just 10 months.
The money purchased a 3D molecular imager that allowed the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research scientists to monitor a tumour’s growth, taking daily snapshots of brain and spinal tumours in mice to monitor their development, and helps pinpoint the genetic differences that lead to the spread of some tumours. The machine also assists with the diagnosis and treatment of young cancer patients. The machine was dedicated to Elliot, and is called “Elliot’s machine” – and was dedicated while Elliot was still alive, with him attending the ceremony alongside Professor Fiona Stanley.
After the aggressive treatment process Elliot had clear scans and everyone was ecstatic, and hopeful they were one of the lucky families. Sadly, six weeks later, they got the news that Elliot’s cancer was back, and he had only months to live.
In 2011, the Telethon Adventurers raised $1.5 million dollars, which was then topped up by Kerry Stokes to $2 million dollars. Through approaching other names and experts, the Telethon Adventurers secured the high profile support needed to keep their message and efforts alive – including that of Hugh Jackman, Helen Mirren, Ricky Ponting, designer Aurelio Costarella, Ben Elton, Colleen Hewitt, and Professor Fiona Stanley.
In February 2011, Elliot lost his fight with cancer, falling into his final sleep in his parents’ arms at home. The night Elliot died, Emily and Rick stood in his room and vowed that they would find out why their son had died, and how to prevent other families experiencing the same grief and loss.
“When someone kills your child, you want to avenge that death. Well, we consider cancer to have killed our child and that is our vendetta. We won’t stop raising funds for the essential research until we find a cure and stamp it out. The rate of cancers in children is on the rise and we need to know why and how it is killing our kids, and how we can stop it,” says Rick.
You too can make a difference in the fight to stopping childhood cancers. This September, the Telethon Adventurers show how style and fashion can meet serious science with their “Spring Soiree”. Sourcing and selling pre loved real wear from style icons, and runway wear from top designers, the fashion finds will be auctioned at the event, with 100% proceeds to the Telethon Adventurers.
Tickets are $95.00 and include canapés, beer, wine and soft drink, entertainment and a take home goodie bag. The event is on Thursday 13 September 2012, from 7pm – 11pm at the Red Herring Function Room, 26 Riverside Road, East Fremantle.
If you have designer duds to spare, consider donating them to the evening – email [email protected] for more information. For those that can’t contribute or come along to the event, you may find something to tickle your fancy at www.theadventurers.com.au or call Rick on 0417 916 368 to find other ways to take part. You can also stay up to date with all the news on Facebook (the Telethon Adventurers) and Twitter @kidscancercure.
This story excerpt has been reprinted with permission from www.offspringmagazine.com.au
Melanie Hearse is an experienced freelance journalist and writer who loves all things health, parenting, lifestyle, movies, books and travel. She has been lucky enough to write for all kinds of publications, including Madison, Inside Sport, Good Health, FHM, Diabetic Living, Practical Parenting and Cosmo