A 15-year-old Attadale boy will walk 20km to raise awareness about PlusLife, Western Australia's vital bone and tissue donation service which is on the brink of closure.
Fletcher Houston will embark on an ambitious walk from Elizabeth Quay to Esplanade Park, Fremantle on Sunday, May 1 in support of the organisation that helped his young mate Harry O'Neill six years ago.
Harry was just nine when he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma (bone cancer) in his left shoulder and humerus. During an 18-hour operation, surgeons removed the tumour and Harry's humerus was replaced with a donor bone, saving his arm from amputation.
PlusLife, a not-for-profit organisation, is seeking $10 million from the State Government to build new facilities, as it must vacate its current premises at Hollywood Hospital in Nedlands at the end of December.
The State Government has previously agreed to lease land in Midland to PlusLife through the Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority, but funding to build the facility has not yet been forthcoming.
Bone and tissue donations are required almost every day to treat patients with spinal deformities, bone cancers (mostly children), arthritic joint disease and sporting injuries, as well as facial and dental reconstruction surgery. Without the generosity of donors and donor families, this work would not be possible.
Fletcher, a Scotch College student, and his support team will wear orange - the signature colour of PlusLife - in a bid to raise awareness of the organisation's critical position.
He urged anyone who realised PlusLife's important work to join him on the walk or participate in part of the route. Members of the public are also welcome.
"I remember Harry had an 'end of chemo party' with a few of his mates and a limo came and picked us up and we went up to Kings Park and cruised around to celebrate," Fletcher said.
"PlusLife is such an important organisation. Without it Harry may not have been able to keep his arm. That in itself would have been life-changing and I cannot begin to understand what life would have been like for him if the bone bank was not around to help.
"So, I'm doing this walk for him and for the organisation that ensured he could have a good, active and wholesome life despite his cancer diagnosis."
PlusLife Managing Director Anne Cowie praised Fletcher's drive.
"I applaud Fletcher's endeavour and tenacity to help raise awareness for the work we do at PlusLife," Mrs Cowie said.
"This is a young boy who has come to know the importance of PlusLife and bone and tissue donation because without it the prognosis for his mate could have been very different.
"Thousands of West Australians have been assisted by PlusLife and bone and tissue donations. Last year alone, we supplied bone and tissue to more than 500 patients.
"The sad reality is that without this funding we will be unable to continue to help people like Harry in the future."
Mrs Cowie said if funding approval was not granted in the May budget, there would not be adequate time to build the new premises and the service would be forced to close.
"We have exhausted all other options to raise funds for this essential development and the State Government is our last and only option in the current economic climate," she said.
PlusLife is the only bone and tissue bank in WA and has delivered services valued at more than $30 million to the community over the past 23 years - at no cost to the State. In addition to supplying local medical procedures, it also provides bone and tissue for procedures around Australia.
The walk will start at Elizabeth Quay at 8am. Fletcher and his supporters will cross the Narrows Bridge and head along the Kwinana Freeway before walking along Canning Highway to Fremantle.
To donate to Fletcher's appeal, visit https://give.everydayhero.com/au/e-quay-to-freo-walk-for-pluslife
MEDIA CONTACT: Nicole Cox – 0419 941 443