Tess Bernadette McGowan Chan was a fair-skinned Aussie girl who paid particular attention to the sun. She knew the damage it could cause and she was always careful to apply sunscreen and wear a hat on hot days. Despite this, Tess was 30 when she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of Melanoma. Eleven months later, she passed away, leaving her husband, her (now two year old) daughter Mabel, five siblings and her parents, not to mention a cast of friends and musician colleagues.
Tess’s brother Raphael McGowan, or Raph for short, was in America when he first learnt of her diagnosis. A couple of months prior he had set off on a 6,900km journey with a couple of mates. It was a fairly spur-of-the-moment decision; he’d heard about their plans and decided he was up for the challenge. He had four months to go from zero to hero and learn everything he could about cycling, not to mention create a bit of a physical base.
When his sister passed away, Raph was determined to do what he could to increase awareness of Melanoma cancer, particularly amongst young Australians and particularly in regional areas. ‘Cycling to March’ was formed – Raph would take his (custom-made Paul Hillbrick road bike) from Adelaide, along the Great Ocean Rd to Melbourne, through townships in which the McGowan family had lived (inc Goulburn, Wagga Wagga) before finishing in Sydney.
It wasn’t long before Toyota heard about the initiative, and provided Raph with two support vehicles (driven by another of his sisters and his mother).
On February 26th Raph rolls out of Adelaide to begin the 1,900km journey. Friends of friends right through to total strangers have heard of his plans, and offered to join him on various legs. Tess and her grandad were big supporters of the Bulldogs AFL team, whom Raph naturally approached for assistance whilst in Melbourne. The response was a resounding and immediate yes, and celebratory plans are now underway for a roaring reception at Whittan Oval on Labor Day, Monday 10th March.
Raph plans to raise $100,000 for Melanoma research to fund a cure. His cycling journey will lead into the annual “Melanoma March” – the major fundraising month for this cause. But it will ultimately be a celebration of Tess’s life and a lasting legacy to her memory. “Cycling to March has been a blessing for our family. We have met incredible people who knew Tess and were able to share with us different and inspiring sides of her life that we actually didn’t really know about. We’ve gathered stories, images and anecdotes along the way and all these will be presented to Tess’s husband and daughter Mabel for her to keep and forever remember her mum,” said Raph.
What can you do? - Riders: participate in one or several legs of Raph’s Cycling to March route, - On March 10, cycle from Whitten Oval to end point that day in Whittlesea. Cyclists are free to exit at any point. - Families/ Bulldogs fans: Looking for things to do on Labour Day? Head to Whitten Oval to welcome and meet Raph, for pictures and make a donation to Cycling to March.
- Cycling to March leaves Adelaide 26th Feb
- Cycling to March arrives at Whitten Oval 10th March - Cycling to March arrives in Sydney 21st March
Donation: - Donations accepted online, at Whitten Oval on Labor Day or as Raph and his support crew make their way through various townships en route to Sydney