Creativity and community spirit come alive in Northam

Six years ago, Esther Bliss signed up her town, Northam, for Pink Up Your Town and it’s been going strong ever since, raising an incredible $16,000 for the McGrath Foundation.

“I had snapped my Achilles and was in a room on my own for 10 weeks. I needed something to do,” she laughs.

While Esther is fortunate to not have had a personal experience with breast cancer, she knows how much it affects the wider community and wants to help.

“We’re very lucky to have a McGrath Breast Care Nurse in Northam, especially being a regional town. Our population is 7000, but we’re an hour out of Perth and a lot of the towns to the east of us come to Northam. It’s a service town,” she says.

“For Pink Up Your Town, we promote three things – awareness and support as well as our McGrath Breast Care Nurse. I’ve had feedback from people that they find great comfort in seeing businesses with pink window displays and pink events.

“Whether they’ve had breast cancer or lost someone to it, seeing that pink is a comfort to them. It’s what keeps me registering for it and supporting Pink Up Your Town.”

Esther believes the strong sense of community in the regions is a factor for Northam’s successful participation in Pink Up Your Town.

“Being a regional country town, people jump on those things because we are used to providing services to others. In the regions, we pretty much have to step up and do this stuff, it’s part of sharing the community spirit,” she says.

“The event isn’t just for Northam residents, it’s for anybody. We’ve got a town called York that’s a 20 minute drive away and event people from there are taking part.”

Northam’s big event will be a “zoo”, with the animals being community members dressed up in animal costumes. On October 21, the local community will come together dressed as a variety of creatures. Entry is via a gold coin donation.

“We have this empty car lot I refer to as the invisible zoo and I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool for people to dress as any animal they wanted for two hours and raise money for the McGrath Foundation,” Esther says.

The quirky idea is gathering momentum, not just in Northam but also in surrounding towns.

“Being a regional country town, there are so many community groups taking part. The local boot scooters will be dressed as pink flamingoes, the physio is doing tai chi and the Northam Regional Gym bunnies will do an exercise session as well,” Esther says.

For those interested in pinking up their town, Esther recommends starting small and building on the momentum every year.

“It really is worthwhile when you get the town behind it. The pillars of fundraising, awareness and support appeal to different people so having those three messages means we can appeal to a wider audience,” she says.

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