Photo: Scott Bulger, Michael Ehrentraut, Caroline Le, Andrew Metz
More than 1,100 people pounded the pavement this year, in memory of a special Melbourne lady, to raise money for the Jreissati Pancreatic Centre at Epworth.
The Walk4Rita Step Challenge was born in mid-2021 when Viridian’s HR Director, Rita Agati, was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer. The Viridian Foundation with the financial backing of the Viridian Financial Group set-up the first Walk4Rita Step Challenge. The first walk raised awareness about the disease and funds for both the Jreissati Pancreatic Centre and Rita’s family.
Sadly, Rita passed away six months later.
Over the last three years, this annual event has raised $222,040 for the Jreissati Pancreatic Centre at Epworth, with a total of 1,863 steppers completing a total of 480-million steps – enough to cover the distance to the moon!
Associate Professor Andrew Metz, Director of the Jreissati Pancreatic Centre at Epworth, said the donations from steppers is vital to the centre’s work.
“Pancreatic cancer is going to be the second biggest cause of cancer deaths by 2030, but events like the Walk4Rita have a positive impact, as they help raise awareness and funds for the fight against pancreatic cancer,” A/Prof Metz said.
“In the centre’s first two years, we have been overwhelmed by the number of people who have told us they’ve been touched by pancreatic cancer and want to help and the Walk4Rita event is a demonstration of that help.”
Donations have contributed to ensuring every new diagnosis is seen within 72 hours, with treatment discussed by clinicians from a range of different specialties including gastroenterologists, surgeons, oncologists, dieticians and psychologists.
Each patient, and their family, is supported by a Pancreatic Cancer Clinical Nurse Specialist as the first point of contact to answer questions and concerns.
A/Prof Metz said donations such as those from the Viridian Foundation have also helped boost research into the disease.
“We have more than 20 investigator-led research studies that we think will truly make a difference in diagnosis, treatment, and survival rates of pancreatic cancer.”
Education is also key to improving diagnosis.
The Jreissati Pancreatic Centre at Epworth has sent over 3,000 pancreas models to GP clinics across Victoria to improve education and awareness of pancreatic cancer, while the centre’s dedicated website has been visited 52,000 times in 2023.