One of the Southern Highlands leading charities will well and truly feel the financial burden of the cancelled 2020 Tulip Time Festival.
The festival brings about $7 million in to the region's economy each year.
It also provides significant financial support to its annual charity partner.
This year that partner was to have been Can Assist Southern Highlands.
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The festival was to have marked the 60th anniversary of both Tulip Time and Can Assist in the Southern Highlands.
However, Tulip Time organisers announced last week that the festival would be cut back in the wake of COVID-19 and uncertainty regarding future mass gatherings.
The decision is a blow for Can Assist which has had all its fundraising activities brought to a halt so far this year due to the bushfires and now the pandemic.
The charity, which provides much-needed financial support for cancer patients and their families in the Southern Highlands, is now grappling with new ways to boost necessary funds to support the local community.
It is a significant concern for the charity which has so far provided a record level of support to people with cancer in 2020.
Can Assist president Jenny Harper OAM said that an average of 95 patients per month had been supported by the charity each month since January 2020.
"April was our highest number ever, providing assistance to 104 patients," she said.
Ms Harper said that monthly support relied on total funds of between $7500 to $9000, to people currently receiving treatment for cancer
This is strictly made available to people residing in the Southern Highlands and who are experiencing some level of financial distress, due to their cancer diagnosis.
Ms Harper pointed out that cancer was pervasive, affecting all areas of life for the patient and their family.
"When you are in a low emotional state, one small act of kindness can be disproportionately powerful. One bill paid can make all the difference," she said.
"Can Assist is considered an amazing resource that people can lean on for financial assistance."
Ms Harper said the funding support aimed to assist any patient with a cancer diagnosis from ages 18 to 50 plus, with 80 per cent of those seeking support aged over 50.
The funds were used for various things including:
- Out of pocket costs for cancer related prescribed medications: this is capped at $300/month/patient. Medication costs comprise 71 per cent of the total financial assistance Can Assist Southern Highlands provides annually to patients
- Fuel/travel/food vouchers for those who need to travel out of the Southern Highlands for their treatment, who may not have suitable transport or are too frail to drive. Can Assist SH has recently received corporate sponsorship from greenslips.com.au to assist patients who are unable to cover the cost of their CTP slips
- Respite care/night nursing in the home, so carers can have a break
Ms Harper said the charity would usually raise funds in a variety of ways including movie and trivia nights, merchandise and deluxe cake stalls, barbecues and raffles.
"We also are fortunate to receive regular and generous donations from several local sporting clubs, the Highlands Singers, private art exhibitions, local theatre companies, Rotary, open gardens, to name a few, as well as from generous individuals," she said '
"We have been most fortunate to have recently received a very generous donation from The Southern Highlands Foundation, to support Can Assist during this challenging time."
Ms Harper said that since the drought, bushfires and COVID-19, the charity had seen a 95 per cent drop in personal donations and corporate sponsorship.
"This is the case with many charities," she said.
"As a result of the tragic events over the last few months, the necessary increase in financial support for people and their families is posing challenges for Can Assist, at this time.
"However it is most important that people and their families affected by cancer continue to receive the necessary and appropriate support."
Ms Harper said that while the charity continued to be managed by a committed group of volunteers, who were most generous in giving of their time, funds were still need to meet an annual commitment to the community of more than $100,000.
"There are no paid employees although we naturally incur a small amount of administration costs in printing, stationery, IT, for example," she said.
"Can Assist merchandise (cards, calendars) are printed and then on sold, as part of the charity's fundraising events.
"All money raised or donated to Can Assist Southern Highlands remains in the Highlands and is used to support patients who live locally."
Ms Harper said the Can Assist committee had been delighted to be chosen as the Charity Partner for Tulip Time 2020.
"Not only would it have provided an opportunity to raise significant funds and lessen our dependency on local donations - especially at a time when the Highlands is recovering from drought, fires and now, a pandemic - it would have provided the chance to raise awareness of Can Assist and what we do," she said.
"We are thrilled to have another chance to be the Charity Partner for Tulip Time in 2021 and hope we can raise significant funds from this beautiful festival.
However, we will have to work hard between now and September 2021, by reviewing what fundraising events we can bring forward, to improve our financial status.
"Hopefully a generous donation or sponsorships will come our way to help us out in the near future.
Ms Harper said Can Assist always encouraged new members as it is a wonderful local charity to support.
"However, next year we are seeking the support of local people who are prepared to work at our fundraising events, by giving a few hours of their time during an event or assist in the preparation leading up to the events," she said.
And as far as the 60th anniversary celebrations in 2020 are concerned, well that is still up in the air.
"We are unsure about the ability to celebrate our 60th year of service to our community, this year," Ms Harper said.
"We will try to celebrate in some way this year, but it depends on the reduction in restrictions.
"Otherwise, we will delay any special events to celebrate our 60th year anniversary for early 2021."
Can Assist Southern Highlands Branch was established in 1960, by local resident, Shirley Beaumont.
It is a grass roots, community based organisation that provides financial assistance and practical support to those affected by cancer together with their families or carers. The Southern Highlands Branch is part of the 55-branch network across NSW that began 65 years ago.
Today Can Assist is the largest cancer support service in rural NSW, giving rural and regional families the support they need.
Can Assist Southern Highlands Branch is administered by an Executive Team of five elected members - all executives and members are volunteers.
If you need Can Assist support call 0474 647 506.