No time to rest for Macclesfield’s young at heart

Having a youthful outlook on life by embracing physical activity, social outings and community engagement is the only prerequisite for members of the Macclesfield Young at Heart Club.

Jun 02, 2020, updated Oct 28, 2020

The group of Adelaide Hills seniors aged over 65 meets regularly to participate in exercise classes, chat over coffee at the local café, or enjoy a lunch out or day trip to the theatre.

Aside from embracing a zest for life, the club has another passion – fundraising for cancer research and patient support.

Over the past 13 years the Macclesfield Young at Heart Club and its 70-odd members have raised more than $130,000 for Cancer Council SA.

The money is raised through the gold coin entry collected at exercise classes and activities and through the group’s largest fundraising event every May – Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea.

Many of the club’s members have been touched by cancer in some way.

But few people are as experienced with the grief that cancer can bring upon a family than Macclesfield Young at Heart founder Cathy Megson-McAllister.

Aside from surviving an aggressive form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma more than 10 years ago, she lost both parents and her husband Barry to cancer within a close period of time.

Cathy says the support she has received from the Macclesfield Young at Heart Club during her struggles has been “incredible”.

“I lost my husband Barry four years ago to acute myeloid leukaemia and he was given only a couple of weeks to live,” she says.

“I brought him home in the end and members came around one day and did a dance class on my front lawn so Barry could watch them. It was absolutely incredible, the support I’ve received since his passing has really helped me get through the difficult times.”

Instead of being angry at the cards life has dealt her and many other people with cancer, Cathy turned her emotion into a passion to make a change.

“I’ve never been angry, with each time that something’s happened it just makes you stronger,” she says.

“It’s just made me more passionate about raising funds and helping more people.”

The Macclesfield Young at Heart Club will stop at nothing to get everyone talking about cancer and the effect it has on people – even if it means getting their kit off.

In 2018, female members stripped off for a cheeky yet tasteful photoshoot for a fundraising calendar launched at the Biggest Morning Tea event.

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Eileen Seyd, left, and Cathy Megson-McAllister during their calendar photoshoot in 2018.

Each photo in the calendar was themed and the overall project inspired by iconic British movie Calendar Girls.

This year’s Biggest Morning Tea was like no other due to the COVID-19 social distancing and gathering restrictions.

However, $12,000 was still raised for Cancer Council SA and the club hosted an online auction with local businesses donating goods.

The pandemic has also failed to halt the club’s regular exercise classes, which have swapped face-to-face gatherings for Zoom sessions.

Cathy says the need for seniors to connect and stay active is no less important than it was more than 20 years ago when she started the Macclesfield Young at Heart Club in 2000.

“The exercise classes are great not just for our physical wellbeing but our mental wellbeing as well,” Cathy says.

“If anything happens we’re there for each other and that’s what community is all about.”

Regional Showcase is supporting South Australia’s rural communities by telling their stories and celebrating their successes. We will compile these stories and then later in the year we will celebrate the best of South Australia’s regions at a special showcase event.

Voting is now open for the Regional Showcase People’s Choice Award 2020. Click here to vote for this story.

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