Harden parishioner awarded OAM for service to the community
A St Mary’s Harden parishioner who raised almost one million dollars for cancer research has been awarded a medal in the Order of Australia (OAM) for service to the community.
Twenty-three years ago, Monica O’Connor nursed her beloved husband, Justin, as he battled cancer.
“After he died, I said to my family we have to do something to help people get through this kind of experience,” she said.
“It is already a tough journey, but especially if people aren’t in a comfortable financial situation.”
Mrs O’Connor organised a black-tie ball on her property, which was so successful that another seven balls followed.
“We have a big grain shed, but you wouldn’t have recognised it,” she said.
“The balls were very glamourous, with up to around 400 people coming along. My favourite was the year we were able to hire the set from Moulin Rouge. People would come from Sydney and Melbourne to make a weekend of it in the country.”
Of the money raised at the balls, almost one million dollars went to St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney to fund cancer research.
Another $10,000 was used to establish a Harden branch of Can Assist, an organisation that provides cancer assistance for country NSW through financial assistance, practical support and raising awareness.
“I was secretary of the branch and then president for 20 years before I retired,” Mrs O’Connor said.
“We have a motto – you’ll never walk alone. I have seen how hard it is for people going through cancer. So, this award is dedicated to my family and the people of the Hilltops Shire. I couldn’t have done it without them. Whether it was running a street stall or making a stack of lamingtons, people were just amazing whatever the occasion.”
Mrs O’Connor has also long played an active role in her church community, taking communion to the local nursing home, organising rosters and running the choir over the years.
“I think you always get a lot back when you give,” she said.
“I certainly got that when I gave communion to the people in the nursing home, seeing what it meant to them.
“The rewards you get from doing things for other people – whatever small thing it might be – are immense.”