AUSTRALIA showed just how big its heart is with thousands of people donating millions of five-cent coins to form a record-breaking silver heart for Connie Johnson’s final cancer fundraiser in May.
The Big Heart Project was the Canberra mum’s final public event for the charity Love Your Sister, an organisation set up by her gold Logie award-winning brother Samuel Johnson, when Connie was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“This is the last hurrah. It wasn’t going to be but during the planning for the event I got worse news, and my health declined quite rapidly and I am no longer receiving active cancer treatment,” Connie said.
The pair’s aim was to break the record for the longest line of coins, but after they were inundated with donations, they had to think bigger.
Instead they created a heart that people helped fill with buckets of silver coins.
The response has been bigger than Sam imagined. “We always dream at Love Your Sister of the ultimate family fun day, and it is right before me, it is happening, it is here,” he said.
“We thought ‘do we dare dream for a million-dollar heart?’. Well, that’s been smashed and now it’s just that unfathomable thought that we could double down on this. It could be a $2-million heart, it just keeps growing.”
The Royal Australian Mint trucked in drums filled with 4 million coins to help make Connie’s idea a reality.
“There was a team of 15 very committed volunteers who have been organising this event over the last year,” she said.
“With their help, with their support, with their love, I have been able to build this into the event of my dreams, the day of my dreams.”
And while the family day was full of smiles and laughs, it was also an emotional one.
“It’s sinking in that this is the end of my fundraising life with Connie. We have spent years doing this together now, the adrenaline from this event has kept her going,” Sam said.
Connie will now step back to spend time with her family.
“I am hoping that without the chemo in my system that I might have a bit of a boost for a little while, feel a little better before the cancer takes over and in that time I just want to be a mum.”
Love Your Sister kicked off when Sam rode across Australia on a unicycle. The charity’s aim is to raise $10 million for cancer research. In June, Samuel Johnson announced that funds raised by the charity just surpassed $6 million.
Ryan Fritz started The Advocate in 2014 to provide not-for-profits and charities another media platform to tell their worthwhile hard news stories and opinion pieces effortlessly. In 2020, Ryan formed a team of volunteer journalists to help spread even more high-quality stories from the third sector. He also has over 10 years experience as a media and communications professional for not-for-profits and charities and currently works at Redkite, a childhood cancer charity.