Col Reynolds is proof that you’re never too old to change careers and follow what you’re passionate about. At the age where most people have comfortably retired, Col refuses to stop. So far, thanks to community support, he’s raised $36 million for his Kids Cancer Project, been awarded an Order of Australia, become the first person to take young cancer patients on day trips and even has plans to do a back-to-back Kokoda Trail at age 80 to raise research funds for his charity. So how on Earth did this incredible journey begin?
Col’s life as a Sydney-based coach driver changed in 1980 when he stopped to let two sick children cross the road. Within minutes, Col had pulled over, entered the nearby hospital and requested to take the cancer-affected children on day trips, snow trips, camps and excursions.
“I was told I was a nutcase,” Col laughs good-naturedly. “So I went home and wrote this itinerary. I didn’t have a bus, I didn’t have passengers, I didn’t have any kids on board. I had nothing.”
However, Col refused to take no for an answer and filled his itinerary with places that would make even the most grown adult squeal with delight. He had displays from the New South Wales Mounted Police and Sydney Fire Brigade plus support from Featherdale Wildlife Park, Captain Cook Cruises, Royal Australian Navy, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and Village Roadshow at Pyrmont.
“For them, it was like five Christmases in one day,” Col says with a smile. “Then in 1993 a doctor said ‘if you want to save these kids, the only way is through research’. So that’s what I did!”
Through the Kids Cancer Project, researchers he supports have made some incredible breakthroughs, with personalised chemotherapy treatment high on his list and a bullseye around cancer cell treatment up next.
“People will say that there is no cure for cancer,” Col says. “Yet because of research, maximum chemotherapy treatment for a child has gone from ten years to ten months.”
When Col first started they also had a ‘one drug fits all’ approach to chemo. That changed when the researchers initiated the personalised program in Australia.
“That annoyed me so badly that we put $850,000 into personalised medicine. That started in Australia because we were one of the first to fund it and still do,” Col says, conviction ringing in every word. “The federal government put $20 million into it later and now it is called zero cancer.”
It gets better from there too. One of Col’s researchers has caused a stir among scientists worldwide thanks to a drug he’s currently testing called anti-tropomyosin. Unlike others, it forces a cancer cell to self-destruct without impacting the healthy cells around it. This is so incredible that the world-renowned Cancer Journal even featured it on their cover.
What strikes me about Col is his determination. Here’s a man who doesn’t have cancer himself, has never had cancer in the family and who could have easily retired fifteen years ago. Yet when he does Kokoda he’s aiming to raise over $100,000 for his research, which is truly impressive considering the only thing I raise when I exercise is my pulse. He also hopes to take a yellow bus around Australia raising extra funds and awareness.
“You do this research for kids to get the answer but they are the last ones to get the results. Why? Because you have to do trials on adults before you can do kids. So it is to everyone’s benefit that they support childhood cancer research,” says Col. “What this yellow bus will do is get that message out there one state at a time. I’d love to go into regional areas and have people put on a community event. It does not matter how big or how little you raise. Businesses can do crazy hair or beard days and get involved as well.”
For us, the yellow bus represents an ex-coach driver who stopped to allow two sick kids to cross the road and is now continuing the journey to make the world a healthier place for the next generation.
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