6 May 2015

Over the last month I’ve been extremely fortunate to be involved in a local fundraiser called Stars of Wollongong Dance for Cancer. This is an initiative of Cancer Council NSW that seeks to leverage the networks and profile of business men and women in the Illawarra to raise awareness and funds around cancer in the Illawarra. Whilst I think that this initiative is very worthwhile, for me it showed something greater and more powerful through the efforts of the ten brave souls that got up and ‘danced’.

TobyDawsonThe mix of Wollongong’s so-called ‘stars’ covered a diverse range of industries. They covered university, personal training, art, television, sport, real estate, beauty therapy and not-for-profit. They represented a vast majority of the businesses and industries that we see actively participating in our community each and every day. And on Saturday night they each showed something else amazing. They brought the 350 strong crowd to their feet and demonstrated the impact of an engaged community. The $45,000 that was donated before the event started showed the ability of these people to engage and empower their networks to join them in making this city a better city.

And in a nutshell that’s what we’re about at IRT Foundation, that’s what lured me to this exciting new opportunity with the region’s largest community and lifestyle provider for older Australians. We are about engaging the community, working with leaders who are willing to go that extra mile in the pursuit of something better, and building the capacity for each of us to take advantage of the opportunities and actively participate in the benefits of community life. It’s something I’m passionate about, something I’ve studied and now it’s something that I get to do on a daily basis.

The Wikipedia definition of public health (apologies to all of my former university academics who denounced Wikipedia at every opportunity) is “the science and art of preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting health through organized efforts and informed choices of society, organizations, public and private, communities and individuals”. If you were after a broad definition of what we’re doing at IRT Foundation, this would be it. This is why we put ourselves out there to raise money for the Stars of Wollongong event. This is why we invest in our community partners through grant funding, build the evidence-base through innovative and pioneering research grants and educate our community through our Speaker Series in the hope that we can reshape the understanding of what it means to grow older in Australia.

Whilst I was pretty excited to take home two of the gongs (Highest Fundraiser and Judge’s Choice), the most exciting thing for me was that I get to be part of something bigger. I am part of a group of individuals, businesses and like-minded leaders who want to improve the community that we live in. I hope you can join with me as IRT Foundation works with you to improve the community we live in as we inevitably age.

Toby Dawson

IRT Foundation Manager

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