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Cheques, mate . . . Celebrating the success of the Milligans Portside Punch are (from left) Cancer Society representative Rayna Hamilton, Otago Community Hospice community care co-ordinator Bridget McAtamney, organisers Sally-Ann Donnelly and Renee Julius, boxing trainer Wayne Fisher-Hewitt, and Associate Professor Brian Cox and Dr Mary Jane Sneyd, of the Hugh Adam Cancer Epidemiology Unit. PHOTO: HAYDEN MEIKLE

Cancer support and services – and research into the disease – have received a boost following the biggest night of the year in Oamaru.

The Milligans Portside Punch charity boxing event raised $124,764.81, and last week the three groups that benefited gathered to get their cheques and thank organisers.

Dunedin’s Hugh Adam Cancer Epidemiology Unit was given half the money, and the Oamaru branches of hospice and the Cancer Society shared the other half.

Associate Professor Brian Cox said the Hugh Adam research unit, based at the School of Medicine at the University of Otago, was “very grateful” to the Oamaru community for the donation.

“Although we are sited in the university, we do not receive funding from the university and we are entirely dependent on obtaining research grants and the generosity of donations,” Associate Prof Cox said.

“This donation is a major impetus to our work. We thank you very much.”

The funding will go towards the unit’s “Cancer Prevention in the South” project.

About 165 people in Oamaru and surrounding areas had a new cancer diagnosis every year, Associate Prof Cox said.

Of those, 20% were diagnosed with bowel cancer, well above the national average of 13.8%.

Bowel cancer was now recognised to be a preventable disease, and the unit was committed to exploring how a screening test for the disease could be made routinely available to people aged 50-59, he said.

Bridget McAtamney, the community care co-ordinator for North Otago for the Otago Community Hospice, was delighted to accept the donation to her organisation.

“It’s great. We’ve just become accustomed to great support from this community.

“They’ve shown this sort of money can be raised in an amazing way.”

Mrs McAtamney said the money would go towards hospice’s ongoing services in North Otago.

The long-awaited hospice hub at the former Anaro building in Thames Highway was taking shape, as consents had been granted and redevelopment work was set to start later this month.

Cancer Society stalwart Rayna Hamilton could not stop smiling as she embraced Portside Punch organiser Sally-Ann Donnelly and accepted her organisation’s cheque.

“Words can’t describe it, actually,” Mrs Hamilton said.

She said the money would help “an awful lot” for North Otago cancer patients and their families who had to stay in Dunedin for treatment.

“That’s what it’s all about – helping our people.”

Mrs Donnelly had officially set $100,000 as her target from the second Portside Punch but was pleased to nudge $125,000.

The three charities to benefit were all doing great work, she said.

“Cancer is a disease that has almost hit every person you know, in some way or another.”

She said the keys to the success of the event were finding a great venue – the former Te Pari building in Humber St – and getting the right people willing to get into the ring.