Leo Sayer sang his heart out. So did Dr Nick Coatsworth. Big Mal brought a fridge. Cake and plant stalls sold out. And more than $300,000 was raised for the Canberra Hospital Foundation. The inaugural Can Give Day was a smashing success and a tribute to the generosity of Canberrans in what has been a seriously tough year.
Thoughts of COVID-19, bushfires, hailstorms, shutdowns and lockdowns were put to one side, finally, as Canberrans and health workers came together to raise more than $300,000 and counting.
The money raised will be used to fund projects to help the 500,000 public patients who use Canberra's hospitals and health services each year.
Some teams raised money for specific purposes including Cathie O'Neill, executive director, Cancer and Ambulatory Support,for Canberra Health Services, who shaved and bleached her hair after raising more than $16,000 towards a Wellbeing Centre within the Canberra Region Cancer Centre.
It was a positive end to a hard year.
"I can't speak highly enough of my team," she said.
"Not only do I manage cancer services, I also manage the walk-in centres and the COVID testing centres. My team have just gone above and beyond. Whatever we can do to help the foundation help patients and make staff feel better about the job they're doing, is fantastic."
Can Give Day ambassador Leo Sayer, who now lives in the Southern Highland, upped the energy levels for the day as he gave a concert at the National Museum which was livestreamed to supporters. He praised the businesspeople who were in the room and promised to match the donations. Canberra Raiders legend Mal Meninga successfully bid $4000 for a special VW Kombi fridge donated by Peter Munday, dealer-principal of Lennock Volkswagen who also sponsored the livestreamed concert.
Richard and Deb Rolfe, the Tall Foundation, Capital Chemist, the Liangis family and Well&Wise matched the donations to $145,000.
"You see the best of Canberra here," Sayer said.
The ageless 72-year-old revved up the crowd to donate as he played hits including Thunder in My Heart and You Make Me Feel Like Dancing.
"This has been a fantastic initiative from nowhere," he said.
"This team has done an incredible job and it's been a thrill working with them. And to do it in these COVID times and manage to put it on, that was another challenge. And I think they rose to it really well."
Canberra Hospital Foundation chair Deb Rolfe praised Sayer for giving his all to the day, along with all the Canberra community
"Everyone has had a tough year but despite that, the donations came in, well and truly. It's just wonderful," she said.
"The Canberra community is so generous. Despite all the hardships this year, they've really made a difference."
The initial fundraising goal was $200,000 in 24 hours. That was reached about lunchtime on Thursday. That meant former deputy chief medical officer Dr Nick Coatsworth, now Canberra Health Services' executive director of medical services, had to don a Leo Sayer wig and sing You Make Me Feel Like Dancing at the main entrance to the Canberra Hospital. Which he happily did.
"I'm stoked," he said. "It's a beautiful day. The event's been so well run. Leo Sayer is amazing. It just makes me feel like wanting to be alive in the early '70s. I think he's got a lot of competition from me, probably more on the dancing, rather than singing front."
Other health staff did fundraising events from Bedpan Olympics to cake and plant stalls to bed-making competitions.
Canberra Hospital Foundation's CEO Helen Falla was thrilled.
"It's just beautiful," she said.
"I'm just delighted to see so many people on campus with great big smiles on their faces."