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Brainstorm for a Cure: A Party for Hope

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“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

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Brainstorm for a Cure

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I’m going to tell you about the biggest party in Canberra this year, but first you need to know why it’s being held.

I grew up in a house where brain tumours were a common topic. My uncle is a brain surgeon and as a child I would constantly hear about the brain tumours he had removed.

Constantly, not rarely.

Yet no one outside my family, no media, ever seemed to talk about brain cancer. Why? The brain seems to be taboo. It shocks people when you say it. When there is something wrong with the brain, it seems to become more personal. The disease takes over the place where you think. It’s not a limb for which we can make a prosthetic: you can’t cut off your brain.

This year at The Logies, Carrie Bickmore made a point of raising awareness of brain cancer by talking about it during her acceptance speech. Finally someone is talking about it publicly. It’s time to stop ignoring Brain Cancer. Once you read the statistics you’ll understand why.

Facts about brain cancer

Brain cancer kills more children than any other disease in Australia. Only 2 in 10 people will survive brain cancer for five years and that has been the case for 
the last 30 years.

Brain cancer costs more per patient than any other cancer. It receives a small fraction of research funding – less than 5% of NHMRC cancer 
research funding.

What if it were your child or mother or brother or husband? How would you react once you found out that this disease is the biggest disease killing children in Australia? Those funding amounts seem, well, rather small in comparison to the prevalence of brain cancer.

Brainstorm for a Cure was conceived in 2014 by then 39 year old Canberran, Sarah Mamalai, who lost five friends to brain cancer. Sarah has also personally experienced brain cancer and is one of the very few long-term survivors of the disease, which kills more people under 40 than any other cancer.

What Sarah did was change the conversation. She decided to make awareness about hope, instead of devastation.

“I’ve suffered and my family have suffered the impacts of brain cancer, it’s a deadly disease, but there is HOPE – the good news is that more people are learning about the horrendous statistics, and are inspired to DO something! The strength of community in Canberra may surprise people elsewhere, but I’m not surprised – I’ve experienced it with Brainstorm and am eternally grateful for the support we’ve received.” says Sarah.

Last year for her 40th birthday Sarah hosted Brainstorm for a Cure, a party night fundraiser for The Cure Brain Cancer Foundation. It was such a success that this year it’s back for round two, and it might just be the biggest party in Canberra this year.

Brainstorm for a Cure founder Sarah Mamalai at the 2014 fundraiser

Brainstorm for a Cure founder Sarah Mamalai at the 2014 fundraiser


Yes you get to wear a pretty dress. Yes you will get a seat at a round table; but don’t be deceived, it will be more fun than any fundraiser you’ve ever been to and you will end up dancing the night away.

Legendary Aussie rockers, Baby Animals, have named the fundraising event as their exclusive Canberra show on an upcoming national tour. The band, which cemented its name in music charts across the USA and Australia during the 90s (“Early Warning”, “Rush You”), will headline Brainstorm for a Cure’s second Party for Hope gala event on Saturday 8 August, in support of Cure Brain Cancer Foundation.

Joining them on stage will be acoustic soul band Tuchasoul, Canberran trio Kaleid, and 17 year old local singer, Ned Philpot, who is due to feature on high-octane Australian television series, The Crew Generation 2 later this year.

Sarah Mamalai at the 2014 fundraiser

Sarah Mamalai at the 2014 fundraiser

There is still time to get some friends together and buy a seat or put a table together or provide sponsorship, there will also be an auction on the night and a whole lot of dancing. So bring your dancing shoes and a heart full of life to party the night away.

To book a table go to or call 1300 362 965. For corporate tables and sponsorship opportunities, please contact Amanda Fintan on 0407 934 067. Ticket sales close soon, so don’t delay!

the essentials:

What: Brainstorm for a Cure’s Party for Hope Gala Event
When: Saturday 8 August
Where: Australian Institute of Sport
How much: $185 per head or $1,750 per table of 10

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