Riding for life and prostate cancer research

Published on WO2 Andrew Hetherington (author and photographer)

Location(s): Russell Offices

WOATA Brendon Blank and his wife Tanya with their new Yamaha FJR 1300AE touring bike, which they will take on the Long Ride around Tasmania. (photo: WO2 Andrew Hetherington)
WOATA Brendon Blank and his wife Tanya with their new Yamaha FJR 1300AE touring bike, which they will take on the Long Ride around Tasmania.

Defence motorcyclists converged on Russell Offices in Canberra on 22 September to raise awareness and money for Prostate Cancer research.

The crew were promoting the 2017 Long Ride around Tasmania.

More than 70 riders entered their bikes in the ‘show and shine’ event, raising over $3,000. National coordinator for Defence participants in the Ride, Wing Commander Paul Connor, said more than 150 Defence personnel were expected to participate in the annual fund-raising and health awareness event.

“Personnel will be riding down to Melbourne to board the Spirit of Tasmania ferry from as far away as Darwin, Western Australia and Queensland,” he said.

“Seven Darwin riders will begin their journey on 8 October, to get to the ferry which departs for Tasmania on the night of 13 October.

“The ride in Tasmania will move around the island in an anti-clockwise loop totalling about 1,000 kilometres.”

Defence typically raises about $150,000 each year as part of the ride for the Prostate Cancer Foundation Australia.

“After the ride finishes on 19 October, a lot of us will be attending the Moto Grand Prix at Philip Island, as it has designated the Foundation as the official charity,” Wing Commander Connor said.

“We have a larger raffle than usual this year and about 50 Defence riders will attend the race, selling raffle tickets and raising the awareness of prostate cancer and men’s health.

“By being associated with the event it will dramatically increase our reach for raising awareness, and hopefully enable for a larger amount of funds to be raised this year for the charity.

This will hopefully continue for a couple of years into the future.”

Chief of Defence, Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin said the event was about reducing the impact of the disease on the community.

“Prostate cancer affects a lot of people. If you think about it, there are 8,000 men in Defence today who will be affected by the cancer in their life time,” he said.

“It is a significant number of people and that’s why Defence needs to do its share to educate and raise the awareness of the disease and funds to help the charity.”

Two of the participants on this year’s Long Ride will be Warrant Officer Aviation Technician Aircraft Brendon Blank, of HMAS Albatross, and his wife Tanya riding as his pillion.

“I’m the coordinator for Team Albatross, taking over from the good work started by Able Seaman Dave Loughman,” Warrant Officer Blank said.

“There are 15 of us going on the ride this year and we will be joining up with 14 bikes from Team Wagga to travel down to Melbourne on 12 October.

“It’s a very good cause and my wife and I decided to enter our first Long Ride after deciding to take a new direction in our lives.”

Mrs Blank said after losing their 16-year-old daughter Sarah to suicide three years ago, they both decided to do different things in their lives.

“We’re trying to find something good again in our lives and we used Sarah’s nick name ‘Sezza’ as our new bike’s number plate,” Mrs Blank said.

She said the number plate becomes a talking point about mental illness when they are out riding.

“It breaks the stigma by talking to others openly and, hopefully, by doing so, it keeps our daughter’s memory alive and by more discussions more will be done for mental illness, as it remains the leading cause of death in Australia for those aged 15-44.

“We feel like she is on the bike riding with us.”

To make a donation to the PCFA charity visit http://pcfafundraising.org.au/event/thelongride2017