Charity helps those on bad path

24-year-old's charity born from friend's cancer

Last updated 19:11 26/05/2014

THINK BIG: Practising what his T-shirt preaches, Brooke "Alfie" Butler hopes his charity Journey of Hope gets off the ground soon so that more people with big medical bills for rare illnesses can be helped.

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When Brooke "Alfie" Butler's friend Caitlin Hawthorn was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, he wanted to do something more than send his best wishes.

So Butler, aged 24, set up a fundraising evening that raised $4500 to go towards her expensive medication and other expenses which, because of the rarity of her condition, were not eligible for funding.

"Everyone was congratulating me on raising the money but for me it wasn't enough because her costs were about $9000-$10,000 a month. So I just went for it and decided to set up the charity Journey of Hope and began the paperwork."

Hawthorn died, aged 21, in February, shortly before Butler's charity was registered. Her legacy has inspired him to continue with it, to help others in similar situations as Hawthorn.

Butler, a third-year history and religious studies student, met Hawthorn three years ago while studying in Palmerston North.

"We weren't really close but it brought us a bit closer when I said I wanted to help her out. She never asked for it, she was so courageous and strong and always put others' needs before her own. As a friend I just wanted to jump in and help out."

Journey of Hope is selling merchandise and running a Give a Little account, but Butler hopes sponsorship will help to organise annual events such as triathlons.

"The money will go towards people who don't fit into a certain bracket for funding, and people with rare diseases or funding issues. I've always been involved in charities one way or another, but it was Caitlin's journey that really inspired me and made me want to see change and to be there for her and anyone else that needed that help."

He has found it challenging to identify people who need help from Journey of Hope.

"At the beginning I, quite naively, emailed Wellington, Christchurch and Auckland hospitals and offered to help but they of course can't do anything because of privacy issues. It's a bit of a pain feeling helpless really."

There were 600 to 700 people at Hawthorn's funeral, and they all hated to see her suffering, he said. "I thought, the sooner [we could] help the better, because illness doesn't wait."

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- The Dominion Post


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