CROSSING the finish line at a Sydney marathon on Sunday was a bittersweet moment for Newcastle couple Benny and Shelby Walton.
The Waltons, with their team of friends, family and supporters known as The Brain Train, were raising money for a cause dear to their hearts – The Mark Hughes Foundation (MHF).
The couple had not been married a year when they received the devastating news in October 2015 that Mr Walton had a brain tumour.
They signed up for the Blackmores Sydney Running Festival marathon to raise as much money for MHF as they could. As the tumour had caused Mr Walton to have left-side weakness, he could not run in Sunday’s event. But members of The Brain Train took it in turns pushing him in a wheelchair.
Together they raised more than $50,000.
As well as research into treatment, MHF funds a brain cancer care nurse, which the Waltons said made their experience much more bearable, particularly when they were feeling “overwhelmed”.
“We went to the finale of I’m a Celebrity, and when The Chief won the $50,000, I said to Shelby, ‘Well our goal now is to raise the other 50,’ – that was before McDonald Jones Home donated another $50,000 the next day,” Mr Walton said.
They had no shortage of people wanting to help, particularly from the Newcastle running community.
In the lead up to Sunday’s marathon, local running groups such as the Night Striders organised trivia and movie nights to raise money for MHF.
“We were so happy to finish the marathon together and pass our $50,000 fundraising goal,” Mrs Walton said.
“The support just blew us away, We were so emotional by the end of it. We were lucky we had sunglasses on. When we crossed the finish line I just cried my eyes out. I wasn’t ready for the emotion of it. Having everyone there supporting us, it was just amazing.”
MHF is now supporting a new grant for Brain Cancer Biobanking Australia (BCBA) that will help establish a communal research register for brain tumour and blood samples donated by patients around the country.
BCBA serves as a virtual hub for 17 independent brain cancer biobank centres across Australia. All currently use different databases to store clinical information on donors and samples.
MHF is providing $74,500 to assist BCBA in building the national biospecimen database, which it hopes will become the largest centralised registry of brain cancer tissue and data in the world.