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Connie and Sam’s million dollar heart

Emma Macdonald

Connie Johnson and her brother Sam are planning one last, massive fundraising effort before she devotes herself fully to her boys.

When Samuel Johnson won his Gold Logie last fortnight it was the biggest moment of his life. Not because he was recognised for his brilliant portrayal of rock guru Molly Meldrum, but because he had the chance to tell the country to get behind his beloved sister Connie.

Connie stopped treatment in January for breast cancer. Every day is precious beyond description. And Connie and Sam are planning one last hurrah together after blazing an incredible trail in fundraising for cancer research through their Love Your Sister charity.

Between them, they have raised almost $4.5 million. What Sam told the Logies audience, and by extension the nation, is that Connie is planning a final massive fundraiser – the Big Heart Project. And it is taking place next Wednesday, 10 May, in Canberra.

“I was desperate for the win, not as an actor but as Connie’s brother because it’s rare you get a chance to share your story with the country,” says Sam. “I would have been really upset if I didn’t get a chance to plug the Big Heart project because the obsession for me is to get a $1 million heart to match her million-dollar heart.”

Speaking from Connie’s lounge room in Kaleen, the siblings are surrounded by a veritable army of volunteers – Connie’s “vollies” – who are using a sunny dining room to prepare box-loads of fundraising merchandise which has been flying out the door since the Sunday night Logies telecast.

Not only has Sam’s passionate speech resonated across the country, but video of Connie watching it via an iPhone (her TV broke just moments before he was handed the gold statuette) has gone viral, with more than 1 million views.

Meanwhile, the Love Your Sister website melted down because of demand – 20,000 new transactions will do that to a website. Connie’s aim is to break a world record – for the longest line of coins ever assembled. And in her case, they will be shaped to form a heart.

Next Wednesday 10 May at the Lyneham Netball Courts, the coins will be laid out as thousands of Canberrans and a large contingent of interstate supporters come out to support Connie. And say goodbye. For Connie it will be her last opportunity to thank the Love Your Sister Village for all they have done.

connievollies

Connie working with her incredible team of volunteers, fondly known as “Connie’s vollies”.

Connie will be dipping out of public life and fundraising after the event to concentrate on her family. In particular, she wants to soak up her two boys Willoughby, 10, and Hamilton, nine. They have had to sacrifice time with their mum as has Connie worked ceaselessly to ensure that “other families don’t have to go through what we have gone through”.

But her fundraising efforts have helped the 40-year-old find “some sense of peace” amidst such a bleak and senseless diagnosis. Meantime, a little sibling rivalry may also be at play in planning the big event.

You see, Sam broke his own world record when Connie dared him to ride around the country to raise funds and awareness of breast cancer. He accepted the challenge and completed the ride. It took him a year between 2013-14 and he raised $1.5 million. Not to be outdone, Connie has been the driving force behind the Big Heart Project, which is also on track to hopefully break the $1 million barrier.

The world record for the longest line of coins stands at 75.4kms and is held by a town in Austria. To break the record, Connie needs to collect 3.951 million five-cent coins. She wants the heart to be big enough to be visible from outer space.

You can donate to the Big Heart Project by metre lengths (it costs just $2.90 for a metre) here. Schools nationally are participating in ‘Five Cent Fridays’ and Bendigo Bank is providing a collection depot at each of their branches. Meanwhile, the Royal Australian Mint are supplying the coins and Questacon have tasked their best creative minds with the mechanics of it all.

Most importantly though, 100 percent of every donated coin will be passed on to Australian cancer researchers, including the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, “IN FULL” emphasises Sam. “This has been a huge deal for Connie and she is basically hoping to raise the same amount of money in a day that I raised in a year. She is basically coming into the arena and saying, ‘this is how it’s done little bro. Look and learn.’”

Both Connie and Sam will be at the Lyneham Netball Courts throughout the day, with gates opening at 7am, and coffee and breakfast available onsite. The first coin will be laid at 8am and the last thrown in at 8pm to ensure every Canberran has an opportunity to pop by and donate some coin – either before work, during the day, or after school or work.

There will be food and drink, a jumping castle, face painting, sand art, crafts, giant board games, competitions, sporting competitions, music and circus entertainers, unicycle shows and celebrity appearances. There will also be a path of reflection to remember others taken too soon by cancer.

You can also make a direct transfer to Love Your Sister via the Bendigo Bank:

  • Account name Love your Sister Inc.
  • BSB 633 000
  • Account Number 156977449
  • Reference Donor name

the essentials

What: The Big Heart Project
When: Wednesday 10 May from 7am-8pm
Where: Lyneham Netball Courts
Find out more: Via Facebook

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Emma Macdonald

Emma Macdonald has been writing about Canberra and its people for more than 20 years, winning numerous awards for her journalism - including a Walkley or two - along the way. Canberra born and bred, she’s fiercely loyal to the city, tribally inner-north, and relieved the rest of the country is finally recognising Canberra’s cool and creative credentials. More about the Author

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