Last year was a devastating one for a young Raymond Terrace family following the diagnosis of well-known father-of-two and husband Deon 'Big D' McFadyen with biphenotypic leukemia.
Since the dreadful news in February 2019, the 41-year-old former Port Stephens league stalwart and fitness centre owner has endured countless blood, plasma and platelet transfusions, followed by long stints in hospital undergoing chemotherapy.
A bone marrow transplant late last year resulted in a 93-day stay at Sydney's Westmead Hospital, yet the family remains buoyed by the support of community, family and friends, described by McFadyen as "simply overwhelming".
"We are indebted to so many people who have supported us through our journey, most particularly the blood donations which help so many other people as well."
Last year friends banded together to initiate a Red Cross blood donation challenge which, says 'Big D', has reached epic proportions. "We have over 500 donations which is a record number for a community group, and it's still growing."
This year friends of the former Terrace Magpies and Nelson Bay Blues colleagues have organised a round robin rugby league 9's day to take place at Raymond Terrace's Lakeside sporting fields on Saturday, March 28. Other clubs to be represented on the day include South Newcastle, Cessnock Goannas, Clarence Town and Hinton Hornets.
Organiser and longtime teammate Joel Osborn said that the aim of the event was two-fold: firstly, to raise much needed funds for the McFadyen family and other charities; and secondly, to continue to create more awareness about donating blood and how they save lives.
"Deon played with various Newcastle Rugby League clubs over the years so we will be inviting them all to participate in the 9's tournament and celebrate a mate in his fight against this aggressive disease," Osborn said. "In addition to those playing on the day, spectators are being invited to come along, enjoy a drink and watch some of Newcastle Rugby League's past and present players run around. It will be a fun day for the whole family with activities for the children. There will be a gold coin donation at the gate and children are free."
Kick off is 10.30am and the matches are expected to be wrapped up by 3.30pm. "Following the footy all are invited back to the Spinning Wheel Hotel in Raymond Terrace for food and refreshments, along with raffles and auctions." Osborn said the challenge was also open to non-footballers and their families.
A 'Big D's 9's Challenge' Facebook page has been set up. To donate or for more information contact Joel Osborn on 0432 566 245.