Home' Phillip Island and San Remo Advertiser : November 2, 2016 Contents PAGE 6 - THE ADVERTISER, WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 2, 2016
JUDE Donahoo reflects this week on the last
seven years, which saw her create the YAMS
Foundation in memory of her granddaughter
Driven by one desire, which was to find a cure
for the childhood cancer that claimed Kahlilla’s
life, Jude’s fundraising effort has this month
topped the $1 million mark.
Her story begins on November 15, 2005.
Jude’s two year old granddaughter Kahlilla
was diagnosed on that day with an aggressive
and deadly childhood cancer, neuroblastoma.
Etched in her memory forever is the room in
which she heard the diagnosis with her daugh-
ter Nell, and the shattering words that were
Three years later, Kahlilla was gone.
She died at home in her parent’s arms in Au-
“She was so courageous over that whole time,
as all of these kids are. They face their illness
with such grace and dignity. It has never ceased
to amaze me.”
Kahlilla spent a lot of time during her illness
“We promised Kahlilla she would never be
alone there, and she wasn’t,” said Jude.
Parents Nell and Colin, and Jude and her
husband Kevin, were always beside her.
It was just before she passed away that Jude
made a solemn promise to Kahlilla, and that
was to find a cure for this terrible disease.
“Her little body was riddled with this ruthless
killer. And toward the end, she said to me: It’s
“I promised her that I would try and find a
“That is what has driven me over the last
“Sadly, I have not succeeded yet.
“The good news however is that survival rates
“Through our work, survival rates are getting
“And there is sufficient money in YAMS to
fund research for a further three years.”
While the magic million mark has been
achieved, Jude does not intend to stop her ef-
YAMS will go on.
“I am going to back off a bit,” she says.
“The intense pressure to raise $150,000 an-
nually is gone. But I hope we will still get sup-
port, and fundraising on a lesser scale will con-
Raising $1 million
It was twelve months after the loss of Kahlilla
before Jude felt ready to set about fulfilling the
promise she had made.
The You Are My Sunshine (YAMS) Foun-
dation... so named after Kahlilla’s favourite
song... was launched in 2009.
The assistance of the newly appointed West-
ernport Water CEO Murray Jackson was in-
valuable in its establishment.
The new CEO had experience running a very
large charity in New Zealand.
“I asked him to join us, and he did. His guid-
ance in setting up the Foundation was invalu-
able, as was the support from Westernport Wa-
ter, where Colin and Kevin both worked.”
The next question Jude asked herself was:
where to from here.
She began by googling the words ‘neuroblas-
toma research’, and came across the name Da-
vid Ashley, whom she immediately emailed with
her story, stating she wanted to fundraise for
Within 40 minutes, a response came through.
David Ashley turned out to be the Director of
the Children’s Cancer Centre at the Royal Chil-
“It was the right fit,” she commented.
“Unbeknown to us, he had known Kahlilla
and been involved in her treatment. Straight
away we had a clear direction.”
Four weeks later, Jude met up with Professor
“He told us about paediatric oncologist Dr
Paul Wood, who was shortly to commence a
PhD in neuroblastoma research.
“He said: we have to fund his research. He is
one of our brightest young oncologists. We do
not want to lose him.’
Jude agreed, and as an afterthought asked:
How does a country nan raise that sort of
money, was the panicked thought that ran
through her head, as she was told $140,000 a
year was the target.
The stars then aligned.
Doors opened, in the form initially of US
based Australian golfer Geoff Ogilvy and his
wife Juli, who contacted Jude after reading of
The couple had been personally touched by
neuroblastoma, and wanted to help.
Geoff was coming to Australia for the 2011
President’s Cup, and ran an Ogilvy Charity Golf
Day to raise money for YAMS while here.
“It raised $110,000, just like that.”
Australian actor Matt LeNevez, also touched
personally by this awful disease, was at the golf
event, and was so impressed with the work of
YAMS that he too offered to become involved.
This raised the YAMS profile further.
At home on Phillip Island, the fundraising
continued in earnest.
There were golf days, a garden party, Christ-
mas and Easter raffles, young cancer survivors
shaved their heads, and neuroblastoma fami-
lies had fundraisers and more.
Jude was invited as guest speaker to the In-
verloch Lion’s Club . . . and yet another major
association was formed.
The Club donated $6,000 to YAMS, and im-
portantly, got behind Jude and provided a huge
volunteer base to help in her ongoing fundrais-
Three Inverloch Lions members subsequent-
ly became YAMS Board members.
They made YAMS a Lions District Project,
and this saw close to $60,000 come in over
Another major contributor was local accoun-
tant Simon Manning, who joined the YAMS
board early in the piece. His young daughter
was at school with Kahlilla.
“Simon has looked after governance require-
ments, as far as ASIC, the ATO and other statu-
tory requirements go, as well as working at ev-
ery event we have held.”
The tally grew.
In its first three years, YAMS had averaged
$150,000 annually, or about $450,000.
It occurred to Jude at that time that the target
of $1 million seemed possible.
The deal was soon sealed in her mind in 2012
when her application for YAMS to be consid-
ered as the official charity for the Australian
Grand Prix Corporation Phillip Island Motor-
cycle Grand Prix was accepted.
Such was the success of this 2012 partner-
ship, that YAMS was accorded the same status
for the next four events.
GP fundraising entailed a huge effort and a
large team of volunteers, waving buckets and
selling raffle tickets at this international event.
The bikers and the raffle’s sponsors respond-
In the first year, when Casey Stoner reigned
supreme, $110,000 was banked.
The recent GP saw YAMS top the $1 million
mark, with the $71,000 raised in 2016 bringing
the GP event tally to $420,000.
Research is so important
Jude believes very much in what she is do-
ing, and the worth of the hard work that has
As well as her promise to Kahlilla, “You do
this because you want to save other children
and families going through this nightmare,” she
“The research being undertaken by Dr Paul
Wood is making a difference.
“When Kahlilla was diagnosed, one in five suf-
“Now, it is one in two.
“A Phase One trial has been completed. We
hope it will go to Phase two next year.
“It has achieved excellent results in mice.
There has been a 90% cure rate in research
trials. The researchers believe this result will
translate to children.
“Neuroblastoma, if caught early, is curable.
But 75% of those diagnosed already have Stage
4 cancer. That is what makes it such a hard
disease to cure.
“There is other research worldwide.
“We will get there.
“Our research was presented to the Advances
in Neuroblastoma International Conference
held in June this year, and was published in
the International Journal of Cancer this month.
“That is huge, and indicative of the quality of
work being produced.”
While Jude is slowing down her efforts after
reaching her target, YAMS is not going away.
“My hope is that people will continue to sup-
port YAMS with regular smaller fundraisers.
Our volunteers are all still very much on board,
and other families still need our support.
“The Foundation continues.
“My dream remains: I want to find a cure.
“We are already helping to extend the lives of
children able to be brought into remission, and
research results are promising.
“A cure will come. I know it will happen. I
hope it’s soon.
“Kahlilla’s light will continue to shine, on all
that we do!”
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Friday, November 11
An amazing effort by
a local grandmother
Jude reaches her $1 million
Cowes resident Jude Donahoo made a
pledge to her beautiful grand daughter Kah-
lilla, that she would do everything in her
power to find a cure for neuroblastoma. She
has kept that promise, raising $1 million so
far to fund research into the childhood can-
cer that claimed Kahlilla’s life.
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