Boogong Masthead

Brainstorm for a Cure: A Party for Hope

Astrid O'Neill

“What brought us together was fear and passion.”

Brainstorm for a Cure is an event that was born of grief,” says Sarah Mamalai, a long-term survivor of brain cancer and the inspiration behind the initiative that has so far raised over $300,000 for vital brain cancer research.

Nine years ago, Sarah – then a 33-year-old mother of two – was diagnosed with the ‘worst of the worst’ malignant brain cancer, a glioblastoma (GBM) grade 4. She was given three months to live.

“After I was diagnosed in 2007, I met four very special people,” says Sarah. “We did not meet at work, at a social gathering or by chance. What brought us together was fear and passion: fear of brain cancer, a disease we all shared; and a passion to prevent other people going through the hell we’d been through.”

Sarah’s friends have since passed away. She remains in the tiny 5% of survivors who live beyond two years.

“Brainstorm for a Cure was my way of coping,” she says. “It came to life in 2014 with the goal of raising awareness and funds for research and, most importantly, to give hope.”

This fundraising gala is the Cure Brain Cancer Foundation’s third ‘Party for Hope’ in the Canberra community. Eight hundred people are invited to attend the fundraising gala featuring a three-course sit-down dinner, drinks and entertainment.

brainstorm for a cure

Sarah with Proffessor Charlie Teo at the 2015, Party for HOPE

“I’m so excited about this year’s Brainstorm for a Cure,” says Amanda Fintan, Events and Fundraising Coordinator for the Cure Brain Cancer Foundation. “It’s hard to believe how quickly our Party for Hope has grown. We’re proud that we’ve been able to capture the imagination and generosity of so many Canberrans.”

Raising vital funds for research

The Cure Brain Cancer Foundation, founded by world-renowned neurosurgeon Professor Charlie Teo in 2001, is the largest dedicated funder of brain cancer research in Australia.

Further funding for research is desperately needed: brain cancer kills more children in Australia than any other disease and is the highest killing cancer in adults under 40.

The significant local impact of this disease is reflected by generous sponsorship support for Brainstorm for a Cure.

This year, the event will feature Ryan and Tanya from hit104.7 as MCs, and special guest speaker Joe Roff – former Wallaby and ACT Brumbies player. Joe’s brother Jake passed away from brain cancer last year.

Performances by Australian Rock legends Hoodoo Gurus and local bands Kaleid and Tuchasoul will be supported by Eclipse Lighting and Sound – whose total sponsorship for production, lighting and sound is worth about $80,000.


Brain cancer touches the community

In 2014, Chris Neal – Director of Eclipse Lighting and Sound – learned of Sarah and Dainere, two young women with brain cancer who had decided to host a combined birthday party and fundraiser at the AIS Arena. Dainere lost her battle with the disease beforehand at the age of 15.

“I remember crying as I wrote my email to see if there was anything I could do to help,” says Chris.

Chris came on board with the Walk4BrainCancer, followed by Brainstorm for a Cure at the AIS Arena.

Dad Race Pic

“This cause is very close to me,” says Chris. “My dad [pictured above] was perfectly healthy and very fit. He loved the outdoors and particularly loved walking. He had plans in place to walk the Inca Trail in Peru until he was diagnosed with GBM grade 4. It was 50 weeks from diagnosis to him not being with us.”

Chris supports Brainstorm for a Cure to see patients receive more affordable treatments and, ultimately, improve the survival rate.

“My Dad was a big believer that everyone in life should be given the same fair go as anyone else,” he says. “There is nothing fair about a brain tumor. They are aggressive, and they change the lives of the person diagnosed and everyone around them.”

A Macquarie Group employee’s life was changed when she was diagnosed with a brain tumour just over a year ago. After being treated by Dr Charlie Teo and achieving remission, she wanted to give something back and take up the fundraising challenge.

She secured the personal support of colleagues and, as momentum gathered, Macquarie Group and the Macquarie Group Foundation came on board.

“Macquarie is proud to be the principal sponsor of the Brainstorm gala, supporting the important work of the Cure Brain Cancer Foundation,” says Rod Sutherland, Director at Macquarie Bank, Canberra.

To drum up local support for Brainstorm for a Cure, Sarah went on every media channel that would take her.

“I shared my story to anyone who’d listen,” says Sarah. “I had an outpouring of support from the Canberra community and people shared their own encounters with brain cancer.”

One such person was Steve Lambert, owner of Lambert Vineyards in Wamboin, who lost his mother to brain cancer. When he heard Sarah on ABC Local radio prior to the first fundraising gala, he got in touch.

Now, Lambert Vineyards provides all of the wine for Brainstorm for a Cure events.

“I’m eternally grateful that our sponsors threw their support behind what was then basically a wing and a prayer with me, Amanda and a couple of other people,” says Sarah.

“These sponsors put the power to our passion and continue to make Brainstorm for a Cure the hugely successful Party for Hope that it is today.”

Secure your ticket for this fantastic August evening at

the essentials

What: Brainstorm for a Cure – a fundraising gala hosted by the Cure Brain Cancer Foundation
Where: AIS Arena, Canberra ACT
When: Saturday, 27 August from 7pm -12:30am
Entry: See ticket options and book online at
Contact: Further details about this event and Cure Brain Cancer Foundation can be found at and

Astrid O'Neill

Astrid O’Neill has joined the HerCanberra team for a writing internship. Previously she’s studied at the University of Canberra and the University of Oxford, and worked for a bold little New York publishing company. She’s a Southsider at heart but now lives in Braddon with her fiancé, where they’re often planning their travels over a local brew. More about the Author

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