Day At The Track

Cobram Pink Day has a personal touch for Donna

04:48 PM 21 May 2019 NZST
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Nikita Ross and Donna Castles,Harness racing
Pink Day 2018 Nikita Ross and Donna Castles
Cobram Harness Racing

When the surrounds of the Cobram harness racing track are a sea of pink this Sunday, no one will be happier than one of the dynamos driving the success of this now-iconic day.

She doesn't look for accolades or pats on the back - as with all things she tackles, Donna Castles just jumps in and gets things done!

But the annual Cobram Pink Day has now raised more than $130,000 for the Jane McGrath Foundation and you have to wonder where Donna gets her passion and energy.

"I originally jumped on board as a driver in 2016 and I also gave the Cobram guys a bit of a hand with things - but it was actually while we were working on that race day that I was diagnosed with breast cancer myself," Donna said.

"I was lucky to be diagnosed when I was, but like everyone when it happens, I really didn't have time for it. I had a 13-year-old daughter, I had 20 horses in work. It wasn't that convenient!" she remembers.

"I didn't tell too many people and I just got on with getting the chemotherapy and radiation treatment and doing my best.

"I got pretty sick at times, but I couldn't let myself just sit around, so as much as I could, I kept things together, going to the trots - wearing hats!"


Donna Castles     - HRV photo

Now in its ninth year, Donna's experience was one of the catalysts that's pushed the Cobram Pink Day to the next level. It raised $12,000 in 2016, $18,000 in 2017 and, last year, $27,000 for the McGrath Foundation Breast Care Nurses.

One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their life, and McGrath Foundation nurses help individuals and their families with free physical, psychological and emotional support.

The energetic Cobram Harness Racing Club administrators Marg and Bob Watson are the backbone of the Pink Day success, along with the enthusiasm of the invited drivers and Nikita Ross at HRV.

Donna said as difficult as the diagnosis and treatment were, it gave her a new perspective on life - and on the Pink Day.

"The thing is, it happens, you can't do anything about it, you just have to soldier on. But when it happens, it does change you and I don't think a lot of people realise how precious life is until that moment," she said.

"I think it's really just one of those things that, in some way, breast cancer seems to touch everyone. If you're lucky enough not to have had to deal with it yourself, you know someone close to you who has. It's just amazing how much support people are prepared to give for that reason."

Coming up to three years cancer-free, Donna is more energised than ever about Cobram Pink Day.

Invited reinswomen (Ellen Bartley, Rebecca Bartley, Juanita Breen, Monique Burnett, Rita Burnett, Donna Castles, Laura Crossland, Kima Frenning, Lisa Miles, Ellen Tormey, Abbey Turnbull and Tania Ward) will contest the $10,000 Paul Roberts Jewellers Jane McGrath Foundation Invitational on Sunday.


Monique Burnett and Ellen Tormey have been two of the invited drivers wearing the pink pants throughout May
--photo courtesy Cobram HRC

 

With the support of HRV, they've been wearing the eye-catching pink pants throughout the month of May to promote the fundraiser.

"It creates a bit of interest, a bit of discussion about why they're wearing pink, and the girls have been amazing in selling raffle tickets and promoting the cause," Donna said.

This year the raffle prize is a $3000 holiday voucher plus luggage for first (2nd a $1000 Visa voucher, 3rd $500 Visa voucher, 4th-7th $100 Visa vouchers), but the club has previously raffled a car, a sulky and a "roomful" of donated items. Each year the energetic team draws new supporters into the fold and this year has assembled a massive list of more than 20 major sponsors.

"We decided to go with something this year that everyone could use - a travel voucher is fantastic because it doesn't matter whether you want to go to Queensland or overseas, it's a great prize," Donna said.

The festival atmosphere of the Cobram Pink Day (this year with a mechanical bull, kids entertainment and a lucky gate prize of a five-day holiday at Ashmore Village in Queensland) has established the event as a favorite with trainers, owners and the community.

"The thing with harness racing is that when something goes wrong for someone in the sport, and we've seen it time and time again, people embrace it and offer support them and give a hand when they need it," Donna said.

"It's the same with this - we've barely had anyone turn us down for support because everyone feels that connection.

"In harness racing, we're all in the same house but we live in different rooms. We're competitors, but harness racing people pull together and that's the fabulous thing about Pink Day and being involved with it. I love it."

Six trainers in every race at Cobram on Sunday will receive Carbine Chemicals Products or Hygain products and in the ladies' invitational every trainer will receive Carbine Chemical product and a Hygain showbag. A lucky trainer's draw with a set of Hyland colors is also on offer, along with a trainers' encouragement award for 14 days at Harkaway horse water walker.

 

Terry Gange

NewsAlert PR Mildura

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