Disco icon and Canberra neighbour Leo Sayer boogied into the Canberra Hospital on Wednesday morning to help launch a major fundraiser for the Canberra Hospital Foundation, while also praising the national capital as Australia's "space-age city".
The foundation's inaugural Can Give Day will be held on Thursday, November 26, the name evoking some of Canberra's famous "can-do" attitude.
In the style of old-school telethons, the 24-hour "festival of giving" will raise funds to help the foundation support patients in hospital or those receiving treatment.
Sayer, 72, who became an Australian citizen in 2009 and now lives close to Canberra, in the Southern Highlands, will be returning on the day of the appeal to headline a free livestreamed breakfast concert, from 9am via the cangiveday.org.au website.
Canberra has really grown up and become a place you want to be, rather than a place you want to leaveDisco icon and Canberra Hospital Foundation ambassador Leo Sayer
Full-of-life Sayer, famous for his hit You Make Me Feel Like Dancing, is keen to lend his support and to sing from the same song sheet to encourage everyone locally to give as best they can.
"This year has been difficult for many and I am happy to help the foundation bring some comfort to anyone in hospital," the singer-songwriter said.
"It will be a great show, and one that I hope will give inspire Canberrans to give."
Sayer was approached to be the ambassador through Peter Munday, a member of the foundation board, and dealer-principal of Lennock Volkswagen, when Sayer was in Canberra buying a new car.
"It was just this chance meeting and they just came up with the idea and I said, 'I'd love to be involved'," the singer-songwriter said.
Mr Munday said Sayer had jumped on board immediately.
"He came into my office and saw all the work we did with fundraising and we had a talk and that just created this incredible relationship," Mr Munday said.
"He's got so much energy and is so positive about wanting to give back."
Sayer has a history with hospitals, his dad was managing engineer of his local hospital group in England and his sister was an assistant matron of the Great Ormond Street Hospital in London.
"I guess I've always been around hospitals and I'm not scared of hospitals like a lot of people are," he said.
"I think if we can break down that barrier and show that the hospital can do a lot of wonderful things, it will be great. On the day, I'll not only be performing, but taking a camera around with me to show people what the hospital can do. The more we can link this hospital to the people of Canberra, to the community, and the more we can make them think this hospital is a friend, the better it will be."
The entertainer had three stents in his heart and a dodgy knee from "falling off stage" but otherwise didn't have to use the hospital. Touch wood.
"I'm all good and I'm lucky," he said.
"I've got three friends in England who've died of COVID-19, so when people tell you, 'It's just a flu', forget that. It is very real and very scary."
Mr Sayer said being in the Southern Highlands, he spent a lot of time in Canberra and Sydney and the national capital had found a place in his heart.
"This is the most amazing place. This is the space-age city of Australia. It's a forward-looking city. It's just incredible," he said.
"Canberra has gone from being a very cold city, because it's a capital city, to being a really warm community. Since I came here in 2005, I've seen it grow to a really wonderful residential community. And I think the residents have taken over the bureaucrats and made it their own city.
"Canberra has really grown up and a place you want to be, rather than a place you want to leave."
Long-time foundation board Deborah Rolfe said she and her fellow board members were delighted to have Sayer as its ambassador. He would be instrumental in promoting the fundraiser, but also stay on for the year promoting the foundation.
"Almost every person at some point in their life needs public health care," Mrs Rolfe said.
"Donating to Can Give Day will go to help every patient in some way."
The foundation supports the more than 500,000 people who are hospitalised or receive treatment in Canberra each year: patients of all ages, facing all illnesses, injuries and conditions, in the area of care the need.
Mrs Rolfe said the foundation supported all the public hospitals in Canberra as well as services such as the walk-in centres. It had raised more than $8 million over the years,
She said 2020 had been a difficult year for fundraising due to bushfires and COVID-19 but she believed many people would want to come forward to help local health services.
"We're excited about it because it brings Canberrans together and the purpose of it is to help our frontliners, to be able to provide the service and the equipment and the programs they need to improve our lives," Mrs Rolfe said.
"Whatever you can give, it's life-giving, it doesn't matter how small it is. Everything will help someone's life."
Dr Nick Coatsworth, Canberra Health Services' new executive director of medical services, said what the foundation had achieved over the years with money raised from the community has been truly remarkable.
"There's no doubt in my mind that Can Give Day will contribute to our health service in a way that is meaningful and makes a difference to our patients," he said.
Dr Coatsworth was on Wednesday on day six of his new job at the hospital, after being the public face of the COVID-19 response as deputy chief medical officer.
"It's been a lot to get across, like it always is with a new job. But this is such a critically important job in the hospital, which is why it's so exciting," he said.
So, is Dr Coatsworth more famous than Leo?
"No. Not a chance. He's an icon. I remember him from when I was a kid," the medico laughed.
The goal is to raise $400,000 via Can Give Day.
Funds raised during Can Give Day will support important research, transformations of away from bed spaces, therapeutic programs and the purchase of new and innovative medical technology and equipment and comfort items - all initiatives which help to enhance patients' care and treatment and uplift their hospital experience.
Supporters can fundraise or donate online now to the Can Give Day website at cangiveday.org.au.
On the day of Thursday, November 26, for 24-hours only, donations will be doubled until matched funds have been exhausted.
And a reminder of the work of the Canberra Hospital, came at the end of the official proceedings as 10-year-old Goulburn boy Aiden Munce walked out with his family after having his tonsils out.
Dad Justin was thrilled to meet Sayer but more happy to praise the hospital.
"Oh, it's great," Mr Munce said.
"They're really caring, really efficient. The doctors are wonderful and very easy to talk to. I can't say enough about them."