It’s a sunny August morning in Hamilton and we’ve stopped in to catch up with Mark Hughes.
We have a chat about beanies, gratitude, the Kokoda trail and a magic ball.
There are many reasons to love the Newcastle community, but Marks story reminds us of the incredibly supportive environment in which we live.
Mark grew up in the town of Kurri Kurri before moving to Newcastle to play for the Knights. He now resides in the beachside community of Merewether with his wife Kiralee and their 3 children.
“I love living in Newcastle,” Mark says. “It really does have that big community feel.”
Mark played for the Newcastle Knights from 1997 until 2005, and played for the NSW State of Origin team in 2001, thus making Mark a celebrated Novocastrian.
After seeing a doctor about recurring headaches, in 2013 at the age of 36, Mark was diagnosed with brain cancer. An emotional journey that brought his family and community close together, banding for support.
Mark and Kiralee subsequently began the Mark Hughes Foundation. The foundation partners with the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI), raising funds to help find a cure for brain cancer. In January 2016 The Foundation appointed a Brain Cancer Care Nurse within the John Hunter Hospital.
“The Brain Cancer Care Nurse is focused 100% on the brain cancer patients at John Hunter Hospital,” Mark informs us. “A great support for patients to have a nurse that is committed to their condition.”
The Foundation has raised over $250,000 through the MHF Beanies for Brain Cancer fundraiser, hosted the Magic Ball with over 600 local participants, organised charity auctions, received donations from numerous local families and businesses and has even had Paul “The Chief” Harrigan going on the national TV program Im A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! to win $50,000 for the cause.
The response from the community is a massive source of inspiration for Mark, Kiralee and the MHF who work tirelessly to offer support for brain cancer patients and their families.
Sitting on the sunny deck of Mark’s Hamilton office, we talk about the importance of the foundation, “Our biggest goal of course is to find a cure – but we are also aiming for more awareness of brain cancer,” Mark says. “Brain cancer is the biggest killer of people under 40 – more than any other cancer – and we need more attention to this in the media and more funding for research.”
Mark and 17 others recently completed a Kokoda Trail “Coast to Coast” challenge: riding 130kms from the Northern tip of Papua New Guinea to the track, trekking the 100km trail and then riding another 70kms to Port Moresby.
“It was physically and emotionally challenging – yeah it was hard,” said Mark, “but I was also inspired to be with those 17 others and raising $150,000 for the foundation.”
Since beginning his journey with brain cancer, the overwhelming story of support for Mark and the Foundation is what really stands out.
The Newcastle community, and national community too, reaching out with assistance and funding.
Here at Villager Property, Mark’s foundation is very important to us, especially for our Villager Rod, who donates $500 from every sale commission (currently totalling $3,000) to MHF in honour of his nephew, a young brain cancer survivor.
“We have great support from the community,” Mark tells us, “and I do tackle every day as it comes – but I am very lucky and I am very grateful.”