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Supporting The Living Centre – a lifeline and link for breast cancer patients 

For those navigating the complexities of breast cancer, Think Pink offers welcoming, holistic support that focuses on the real needs and challenges faced by individuals at every stage of their breast cancer journey.

Group shot of Freemasons including those from Grand Lodge, FFVL, Seavic Lodge and others

Breast cancer statistics tell a sobering tale – one in seven women will grapple with this diagnosis during their lifetime. This means that this year, approximately 20,500 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer nationally and a little over 4,000 of those will come from Victoria. At the core of Think Pink’s mission is The Living Centre, a non-clinical wellness facility established in 2010. This unique space offers a range of free programs and services, providing emotional, practical, and physical support to patients and their families.

Many patients dealing with a breast cancer diagnosis face extreme financial challenges so crucially, all services provided by Think Pink are delivered free of charge, with an open-door policy that welcomes patients from any treatment centre and at any stage of their journey. The Living Centre's innovative approach is grounded in the understanding that holistic support, addressing not only medical but also psychological and emotional aspects, plays a pivotal role in enhancing patient outcomes, well-being, and overall quality of life.

FFV has offered ongoing support to Think Pink's mission, seeking to make a significant difference in the lives of those affected.

Between 2015 and 2017, FFV sponsored the presence of a dedicated Breast Care Nurse (BCN) at The Living Centre. This unique offering distinguishes Think Pink from other providers of clinical support to breast cancer patients. Despite initial contact with a BCN through treating hospitals, many women find themselves disconnected due to time constraints and the overwhelming number of patients the BCN coordinates. Recognising this gap, Think Pink ensures ongoing access to a dedicated BCN at The Living Centre, available each weekday to provide crucial one-on-one counselling, links to relevant health professionals, and guidance in navigating the healthcare system and the free-of-charge programs offered at the centre. The partnership has been instrumental in sustaining this invaluable resource, with funding ensuring programs can continue and new initiatives developed, addressing the growing demand for Think Pink’s services and the delivery of programs for regionally based BCNs.

In 2018, a grant to Think Pink enabled the growth of the Supporting Blokes Program, which provided specialised support for partners of women diagnosed with breast cancer beyond the city. The program has been operating since 2011 at the Living Centre in Melbourne. It is designed to address the unique challenges faced by men – partners, adult sons, siblings, family, and friends – supporting women with breast cancer. With a $36,950 grant, the program branched out to rural areas. The expansion was facilitated by Think Pink's Breast Care Nurse and Social Worker in collaboration with local Health Professionals and was delivered through the network of Masonic Lodges, complementing the existing Prostate Cancer Centre Bus tour, and included seminars, workshops, and group counselling, addressing the practical and psychological needs of men supporting women with breast cancer in regional areas. where resources are often more limited. The program still operates today, most recently sponsored by the Middle Park Lodge with a Lodge Support Grant by FFVL.

Continuing the trajectory of holistic well-being, Think Pink Foundation looked to expand the Wig Salon and introduced the Physical Therapies Program. Breast cancer patients often grapple with adverse physical effects resulting from their treatments, with hair loss and Lymphoedema being two common challenges. In 2018, a grant supported the Living Centre’s aim to uplift the spirits of women facing the tangible effects of their disease with an update and expansion to the Wig Salon so it could provide a broader and more diverse range of free wigs cater to individual preferences and need. The Wig Salon acknowledges the psychological and emotional aspects of hair loss during breast cancer treatment, ensuring that each woman receives personalised information, support, and tutorials from trained specialists. The same year, FFV gave support to the program for therapeutic massage services and compression bandages to alleviate the symptoms of Lymphoedema.

Since the inception of the Living Centre founded by two-time breast cancer survivor Irene Hendel OAM and her husband David in 2010, Freemasons Victoria and the Foundation have together contributed over $900,000 facilitating Think Pink's vital support services.

In December 2019 the Living Centre was relocated to a brand new, purpose designed and built, state-of-the-art facility at the Forge Building in Docklands. The new Living Centre was officially opened on 16th February, 2020. However, just two weeks later, the pandemic forced its closure in March, compelling the Living Centre Team to swiftly pivot its operations to deliver uninterrupted online support services through platforms like Zoom. In response to the unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Think Pink Foundation sought renewed support from FFV to provide crucial emergency funding.

Despite the increase in demand for services (with program session attendances soaring over 300%) and the team's adaptability to the digital landscape, the Think Pink Foundation faced the challenge of diminished fundraising capacity due to cancelled annual events and activities. These activities, previously accounting for approximately one third of Think Pink's annual revenue, were unable to take place, leaving a significant financial gap. The emergency funding granted by the Freemasons Foundation was crucial in ensuring the Living Centre's ongoing provision of free and accessible support services, which became a lifeline for breast cancer patients facing the unique struggles amplified by the pandemic.

The funding aided in bridging the financial gaps and sustaining the Think Pink Foundation until normal fundraising activities could resume post-pandemic. During this time, the Foundation’s dedication to empowering clients, providing comfort, advice, and better health outcomes stood more important than ever, and the FFV support helped weather the storm but also contributed to the sustainability of this organisation.

Above left: Irene Hendel OAM presenting a Certificate of Appreciation to WBro Neil Cripps EO FFVL and WBro Philip Mayers AM (Vice Chair FFVL).  Above right: FFVL Director Xavier Murtagh with RWBro Peter Henshall Deputy Grand Master

Many charities face ongoing financial challenges and Think Pink is no exception. Operating in a deficit and unable to build a reserve as they deliver their vital services, In late 2023, in addition to awarding further support for the Physical Therapies program, FFV supported Think Pink with a grant to enlist a professional fundraising consultant. The consultant will assess current fundraising systems, recommend and implement changes for efficiency, identify prospects for philanthropic support, and facilitate connections with potential sponsors and donors. The ultimate goal is to secure diverse, regular, and predictable income streams, underwrite the Foundation's long-term future, and enhance awareness to extend support to an increasing number of breast cancer patients and their families.



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