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How one phone call kept cancer patients’ cars on the road

greenslips.com.au has just made its 58th donation to Can Assist. It has now donated to all 56 Can Assist branches, as well as to head office. In addition, the successful media outreach has resulted in greater awareness of Can Assist and its vital work across rural and remote NSW, assisting more cancer patients.

Our Can Assist story

When NSW farmer and cancer patient Robert Griffiths received a phone call in April 2019 to say someone had paid for his car’s CTP green slip insurance, he and his wife Gail burst into tears. The high cost of his cancer treatment meant he and Gail needed to sell their farm equipment and stock to pay for it, leaving nothing left over for the compulsory insurance – until a good-hearted stranger stepped in.

This small act of kindness meant Robert could keep using his car to get to treatment, it also led to hundreds of other cancer patients being supported as well.

Can-do attitude sparks a partnership

In early 2019, Helen Corby, a volunteer and treasurer of the Orange branch of NSW cancer support group Can Assist, made a call to the green slip information and comparison company greenslips.com.au. She wanted to know how to pay for Robert’s QBE green slip.

“I remember the call well,” says Stephen Treacey, founder and CEO of greenslips.com.au. “Helen explained why she was trying to pay for the green slip, and what Can Assist does. The call resonated with me: the fact that paying for someone’s green slip could have such a big impact was mind-blowing.”

Stephen, who grew up in the NSW country town of Cobar, decided to pay for Robert’s green slip and made a $3,000 donation to the Can Assist Orange branch. But that was just the beginning. He also spoke with his colleague Sophie Bartho about what more could be done to help Can Assist and the cancer patients they support.

Can Assist is a grassroots charity, established in 1955, to provide practical and financial support to cancer patients across regional, rural and remote NSW. Much of the assistance goes towards meeting travel expenses, as many clients must travel long distances to treatment. “We also help with the cost of car registration, fuel, food, utilities and rates,” says Helen. “With the ever-increasing cost of living, the need for financial help is even greater.”

Stephen says Can Assist was “a compelling fit”. “Both organisations are NSW-based. Being from the country myself, I’ve seen the compounding challenges from the need to travel to treatment. Travel often involves long distances and driving hundreds of kilometres, sometimes daily, for weeks and months. I understand how critical it is for people to keep their cars on the road to access treatment.

“I also know what it is to be the carer for a loved one with cancer. I love Can Assist’s grassroots volunteer model, where the money raised locally stays local. I love how Can Assist does not discriminate – it is there for all cancers, and all people.”

greenslips.com.au proposal delivers for Can Assist

Working with Emma Phillips, Can Assist’s CEO, the greenslips.com.au team put forward a partnership proposal, committing to helping every Can Assist branch with a $3,000 donation dedicated to paying their clients’ green slip insurance. In addition, the greenslips.com.au team would provide funding and skills to support media and outreach campaigns for the branches. The aim was to raise the awareness of the great work Can Assist does and to highlight the need for donations and volunteers in local media.

Sophie says they recognised there were incredible community stories “to share and inspire others” through the media and outreach campaigns.

“I have had the privilege of hearing hundreds of stories from volunteers, patients, carers and social workers across NSW”, says Sophie. “I recall the PsychOncology social worker from Western NSW Health, who was based at Orange Health Service, explaining that ‘Cancer is pervasive, affecting all areas of life for the patient and their family.

Asking for help is important at a practical and emotional level. When you’re in a low emotional state, one small act of kindness can be disproportionately powerful. One bill paid can make all the difference.’ People can be hesitant to ask for help, believing other people’s needs are more important than their own. We realised that by sharing people’s stories, other cancer patients and carers would be encouraged to reach out for assistance from Can Assist.”

The first donations were made to the Orange and Finley branches in March 2019, with the first media coverage appearing in June 2019. Over the ensuing years, scores more stories appeared across local media outlets, which helped build awareness of Can Assist’s work.

“I was stunned by the scale of the support from greenslips.com.au; it blew me away,” says Helen. “Nobody had ever provided help like that before to our organisation: to pay for Robert’s green slip, make a donation to our branch, and then offer to help all other Can Assist branches was overwhelming.”

Meanwhile, Emma says, “The generosity of the donation and the ensuing partnership really stands out. It was wonderful that someone understood what Can Assist does, as well as recognise the opportunity a partnership could bring. And it’s more than just about the money; once the first media story appeared, that’s when the impact became very clear. It showed what the partnership went beyond the financial aspect. The media outreach was helping Can Assist connect with the local community and was also assisting our clients and their carers emotionally. The fit was even greater than what we originally thought.”

Bridging the city-country divide

Emma says the partnership has also built a bridge between the city and country. “Our branches are bespoke, and each does their own fundraising with all money raised locally staying local,” she says. “However, the support from greenslips.com.au flowed through to all branches and head office. For our volunteers, it resonated that people in the city recognised the work our regional branches are doing. Stephen is very sincere in wanting to make a difference. What he has done has allowed Can Assist to move forward and make some vital changes and greater connections.”

Fast forward to October 2023 and greenslips.com.au has just made its 58th donation to Can Assist. It has now donated to all 56 Can Assist branches, as well as to head office. In addition, the successful media outreach has resulted in greater awareness of Can Assist and its vital work across rural and remote NSW, with more cancer patients being assisted.

Meeting for the first time

Recently, Helen and Stephen met for the first time at a special event to mark the donations to the last two Can Assist branches, where they reminisced about that fateful phone call and the significant impact it has had. In his speech, Stephen said, “Our target was to donate to all Can Assist branches and four-and-a-half years later we have done it. I am delighted and proud that we have achieved this.

“Helen has sparked a journey that has been a privilege to be part of, especially knowing that we have impacted in many ways. Recurring feedback has been about the importance of peoples cars to access treatment and as a private refuge after treatment. Amongst other things, we have helped regional and rural cancer patients and their carers keep their cars on the road when they need them most.”

Adds Helen, “The ripple effect was enormous. From giving the message to Robert and Gail that their green slip had been paid to being able to tell the social worker their patient had been helped, to all Can Assist branches being assisted. It has been a privilege to be involved.”

For more about how this wonderful story unfolded, see our short video.

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