Meet our Movement of Many – Kids with Cancer Foundation Australia

02 May 2022

Meet our Movement of Many – Kids with Cancer Foundation Australia 

Sydney Children’s Hospitals Foundation is made up by a community of unstoppable changemakers - the ambitious instigators of an exciting new revolution in kids’ health.

While we are drawn from different groups, backgrounds, and perspectives, what makes us different makes it work. Together we form a Movement of Many, fighting for the health and wellbeing of all children in an ever-changing world.

Peter Bodman, Director and Founder of Kids with Cancer Foundation Australia, is one of these unstoppable changemakers that has been supporting sick kids for 23 years.

Peter has two passions in life: his charity and his old car. Unfortunately, these days he’s too busy attending to his charity – Kids with Cancer Foundation Australia – to have any time left to spend on his 1969 MGB MKII. But when he does find a spare hour or two, he loves nothing more than taking the little English sports car for a cruise down the Old Pacific Highway.

He also feels very at home tinkering under the MG’s bonnet. Not surprising for someone who spent a large part of his career working on machinery as a fitter and turner.

Peter was born in Randwick, coincidentally not far from Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick, just one of the many children’s medical facilities to which his charity gives so much. As a young boy he lived in the colourfully named Rainbow Street, Coogee. He and his older sister enjoyed going to the old Boomerang theatre to watch black and white Tarzan movies. There wasn’t much money for anything else.

“We were a working-class family,” says Peter. “My mother was a housekeeper, and my father had just returned from World War II and worked as a clerk with the Department of Defence. They never owned a house in their lives.”

In the late 1950s, the family moved to a newly built Housing Commission bungalow in Ermington.

“It was just a little brick veneer box, but we thought it was beautiful,” Peter laughs. “We’d race billycarts, play street football, and hide under the house smoking. I was the only one of all my friends who didn’t take it up.

After completing his third year at high school (the Intermediate Certificate), he wandered the streets, knocking on doors, trying to find work: “Nobody wanted me.”

So, he enrolled to do a pre-apprenticeship course as a fitter and turner before landing an apprenticeship at Garden Island Dockyard. “I loved it, working on the ships like the old aircraft carriers HMAS Sydney and the Melbourne. Beautiful old things.”

Peter stayed at Garden Island for 20 years, until 1983. During that time, he married and eventually moved into a home at Terrigal on the NSW Central Coast, where the couple’s daughter, Karen, was born.

The next two decades might properly be described as Peter’s restless years. He and his wife relocated from Terrigal to Port Macquarie, and later to the Gold Coast moving between job to job and business to business. At the age of 45, Peter found himself broke and unemployed.

Peter turned his life around when he started selling Art Union raffle tickets in Queensland shopping centres and beachside markets to raise money for Multiple Sclerosis and other charities.

“I found I was good at it,” says Peter. “I may have started out life as a shy redhead, but I reinvented myself and found I had a gift for the gab.” They set up an ‘art union kiosk’ in the Oasis Shopping Centre in Broadbeach in the mid 1990’s working seven days a week with many late nights, but wanted to return to their roots in Sydney. They started a charity: Kids with Cancer Foundation Australia (KwCF) and moved temporarily into a caravan park at Rouse Hill while applying for and awaiting the outcome of a Fundraising Permit and an Art Union Permit with NSW Charities, Gaming and Racing drafting his correspondence on an old golf-ball style typewriter.

“My father and mother had died from cancer, my sister had since died from cancer, so a need was seen to have the charity for the youngest children. That’s how KwCF came about,” Peter says.

To raise funds he used his knowledge, being the same tried and tested method – selling Art Union tickets in shopping centres – offering prizes targeted to specific demographics, a technique still used today, but with COVID restrictions, in recent years telemarketing has been the mainstay of the ticket sales.

“Art Unions are still our largest source of income,” says Peter. “Donations have grown as people have come to know and trust us and believe in what we are doing.”

Success was swift in those early times. Within 12 months, Peter approached Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick and The Children’s Hospital at Westmead with a $150,000 donation each. Now, 23 years later, KwCF has a staff of 10 employees, and has provided more than $17 million for Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network - around $9 million for Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick, more than $7 million for The Children’s Hospital at Westmead and close to $1 million for Bear Cottage making KWCF the 3rd largest overall donor. Funds have also been provided to Women’s & Children’s Hospital Adelaide, Monash Children’s Hospital, Melbourne, John Hunter in Newcastle and Queensland Children’s Hospital.

The money raised has gone to a diversity of causes, from providing employment to oncology Fellows, nurses, research associates, psychologists, pharmacists, and social workers, and to building a state-of-the-art Research Unit at Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick and the original Children’s Cancer Centre in Monash Children’s.

KwCF also provides money to the families of those affected by cancer. “We give away about $40,000 each month to families,” Peter says. “It might be to pay an electricity bill, help out with rent or mortgage payments for a few months, cover car expenses, or sadly, to pay for a child’s funeral.

Peter says he has no plans to retire, especially while he’s feeling fit and healthy.

“I’m 75 years old. I like doing what I do, and I’m not ready to give it all up yet. This is the most fulfilling job I’ve ever had. I have a love of children, having ten grandchildren that I share with my wife, Vittoria.”

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