9 November 2023

Griffith honours Can Assist president Olga Forner's 20 years in top role

| Oliver Jacques
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Olga Forner embracing Chris Brugger

Olga Forner with her ‘miracle’ Chris Brugger. Photo: Oliver Jacques.

Griffith has honoured the president of its popular charity group Can Assist, who celebrated 20 years in the role last week.

Olga Forner, 79, has been the face of the local organisation, which has raised an estimated $2.5 million during the time she has held the top job.

“I’ve received great support from all the branch members, particularly this year,” she said. “They’ve been amazing to have – that’s why we’ve maintained such a strong impact in the community.”

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Griffith Can Assist runs fundraisers to provide support to cancer sufferers and their families, particularly those who have to travel long distances to access health care.

At a get-together at the Griffith Regional Theatre on Thursday (2 November), the many businesses and individuals who have supported Can Assist over the years were also thanked.

The main annual fundraiser for Can Assist is the City2Lake, a fun run inspired by Sydney’s City2Surf.

This year’s event, held in September, raised $57,000 for local cancer sufferers.

Co-ordinator Cheryl Wood, marketers Belinda Johns and Rosie Taprell and volunteers Geoff Bortolin, Anthony Martinello, Rebecca Rosato, Sharon Martinello and Sonia Callipari were all congratulated for the many hours they volunteered to make the run a success.

“This was our chance to offer our personal thank you to the people supporting us on a regular basis and to acknowledge their kindness,” Ms Forner said.

Attending Thursday’s event was Chris Brugger, who has battled blood cancer for 15 years. Ms Forner has described him as her “miracle”.

“My journey started in 2008, I was young, I had a young family,” Mr Brugger said. “The next 10 years I was in and out of hospital in Sydney. I was working, then not working; it was hard with my family, mortgage, operation, medication, doctors’ bills and expenses. But Olga was there to help. Without Can Assist and its supporters, I don’t know where I’d be.

“In 2017, I had a real bad year. Halfway through they told me I had 12 months to live, they told me to get my affairs in order. But six years later, things are great, that comes down to all the support I’ve had – we are so lucky to have Olga.”

Can Assist team in white in front of table

Can Assist dream team: Merle Cole, Olga Forner, Margaret McCann, Diana Brown and Pam Young. Photo: Oliver Jacques.

The Can Assist president said she had seen many miracles in her 20 years, and a number of those who were told they should be dead by now were able to share a drink with her at Thursday’s party.

“Those who have got strong positive outlooks come through with the best results,” Ms Forner said.

Approaching her 80th birthday, Ms Forner called on younger people to step up and keep the charity going.

“We need volunteers; we would love more. We have great friendship and good harmony and we do have fun, even though the work we do is challenging,” Ms Forner said.

“If we didn’t have the community behind us, we would not have been able to do this – all the money we raise remains in our local community, none of it is sent away.”

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