Standing on a pad of compacted earth enveloped by a curtain of tropical trees and foliage, you could almost sense the spirit of the late Charles Woodward smiling down from above as his partner in life and philanthropy Pip helped turn the first sod of the COUCH Wellness Centre.
The official ceremony last week marked a major milestone in the $3 million stage one facility, nestled in a pocket of urban rainforest off Reservoir Rd.
When it opens in April next year, the COUCH Wellness Centre will be the realisation of a decade-long journey to provide a holistic service hub for cancer sufferers in the Cairns and Far North Queensland region.
Driven by the vision of COUCH co-founders Charles and Pip, the journey began in 2008 with the donation of a 2.5 hectare property on Reservoir Rd by the extended Woodward family and some funds remaining from the successful COUCH campaign to bring full oncology services to Cairns with the Liz Plummer Cancer Care Centre.
The COUCH Wellness Centre will provide cancer sufferers a range of services during, after and in addition to their clinical treatment elsewhere, including:
COUCH chair Ron Holden described the sod turning ceremony as a "wonderful example of a community getting behind a dream to make it come true".
“This milestone has been achieved by a most amazing range of dedicated fundraisers, donors, volunteers, and supporters from across the community pulling together and I sincerely thank them one and all on behalf of the cancer suffers in our region,” Mr Holden said.
“Every COUCH event and every private fundraising event over many years has been extremely well supported which demonstrates the level of public awareness and understanding of the need for what COUCH stands for and is achieving.
“This huge effort has been supported throughout by Cairns Regional Council and our local member Warren Entsch, with the Australian Government providing a $1.5 million Community Development Grant towards the project.
“I also acknowledge specifically the very substantial donation of $500,000 from Hand Heart Pocket (The Charity of Freemasons Queensland).
“I am proud and consider myself privileged to be leading the current COUCH board in delivering on the legacy of my lifelong friend and mate Charlie. We are determined to continue to write this great story and to operate the Centre from April 2019 on a social enterprise not for profit basis on behalf of the community for the cancer sufferers in the community.”
Federal Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch, who secured $1.5 million in Federal Government funding for the project, congratulated COUCH and the broader community for reaching the milestone.
“My dear friend, the late Charles Woodward, would be looking down today with a smile on his face," Mr Entsch said. "In fact, this centre has been an amazing vision of the entire Woodward family, especially Charles’ wife, Pip, who has been a driving force behind the project.
“I have absolutely no doubt the COUCH Cancer Help and Wellness Centre will become the city’s leading provider of cancer care and support services for its patients. This centre will play a critical role in helping them through their journey.”
Click here to donate to COUCH and support the operation of the Wellness Centre.