By Jordyn Grubisic
Despite the rain, Daniher’s Drive participants were treated to a warm welcome in Romsey and Lancefield on Thursday – the first two stops of a drive to raise money and awareness for motor neurone disease, MND.
Daniher’s Drive is an annual road trip through regional Victoria and this year included 220 participants, including the family of former AFL footballer and coach Neale Daniher, who is fighting MND and has raised more than $70 million to research the disease.
Fight MND chief executive Fiona McIntosh said the route was selected to visit towns they hadn’t stopped at before and were flood-affected.
“What we try and do is spread our support across Victoria and we really wanted to come to areas we hadn’t been through before but had also been affected by floods in the recent year or so,” she said.
“It’s really important to come and see this region because they’ve been doing it tough.
“The community support has been really humbling because people have been doing it tough, not only with the floods and COVID, but now the cost-of-living and they still come out and support Neale and the family and still dig deep to help us fight the ‘Beast’.”
After leaving the Essendon Football Club training facility on Thursday morning, the drive headed to Romsey for a morning tea relocated to the Romsey Recreation Reserve following poor weather.
Country Women’s Association and Red Cross volunteers provided baked goods alongside Rafael’s Coffee, Waymaker Coffee and a sausage sizzle.
The Romsey-Lancefield Lions Club also assisted with the morning tea and Jenny Stillman, from Business and Tourism Association of Macedon Ranges, emceed the event.
The Romsey Primary School singing club and local bush poet Jack Bamford also performed.
At Lancefield, it was St Mary’s versus Fight MND in an ice bucket relay with St Mary’s victorious.
Students and supporters cheered as St Mary’s principal Julie McDougall, teacher and Mr Daniher’s sister Colleen Bruest, and students Max, Nait, Nate, Pat, Maggie and Marley were doused in ice buckets.
Ms Bruest said the relay was a great event bringing some fun to the drive.
“It’s all about community with the Fight MND Daniher’s Drive. They love to go through the country communities and spread the word about Fight MND,” she said.
“A lot of these kids are now attuned with Neale’s Fight MND cause to try cure MND.
“They watch the Big Freeze, they’ve got their beanies so they were kind of on board and then to have people come out into the country and do fun activities like this just puts a smile on everyone’s face.
“For a lot of these families, they see Neale or they see Fight MND and they see it out in Melbourne, Victoria and it resonates with them.
“They see the battle that Neale’s fighting and it resonates with them. But for them to be able to support the cause and be able to action [it], like holding the morning tea in Romsey and then being able to host them here, it’s really big for our little Lancefield-Romsey community.
“It’s just a fantastic event. It’s also really nice to catch up with family because I’m not on the drive this year so it’s really nice to catch up with Neale’s wife Jan and I think it’s really lovely for other people to see how hands-on they are.”
Daughter of Neale Daniher, Bec Daniher, said the events showed the massive community support in trying to ‘beat the Beast’ – the name given to MND by the organisation.
“For someone who’s got a family member battling against the Beast I think it shows there is a massive community that want to help, who want to change the narrative that is an MND diagnosis,” she said.
“It’s currently terminal but we know that when we continue to fight against it and continue to fundraise, we’re going to get some amazing researchers working around the clock to find a way to find an answer to the Beast.
“We see the over 200 drive participants and all the amazing community towns that come out, like with this incredible spread here in Romsey, and we just know we’re going to get that at each beautiful town we stop at.
“I think that’s just showing that there’s so many people that care and that want to help and that’s just what the drive is all about.”
This year’s drive raised $2 million. Donations can be made to Fight MND through their website at fightmnd.org.au/donate/.