Harry's cans for cancer

Monday 23 July, 2007

Keeping active over the cold winter months is no problem for Harry Barnett, of Inverloch.

At 83 years of age, Mr Barnett and his wife Lyn regularly set out with the Peregrine Walking Group, who explore the beautiful lanes and country roads of the South Gippsland and Bass Coast shires once a week.

"Every Tuesday, we walk anything between 12km and 18km," Mr Barnett said.

"I don't do the 18km, but I do up to 14km. The walking keeps me fit and I'm still breathing. I have arthritis, but everyone has this."

And while a few of the ‘younger ones' in the group use walking sticks to help them get along, Mr Barnett hasn't got a spare hand to hold one. His hands are full of plastic bags, which he uses to collect aluminium cans from the roadsides while he walks.

"We take our time. Some of our walkers take water to drink and have a five minute stop. I don't carry water, so I keep walking and pick up the cans. I collect two bagfuls on a good day, sometimes none at all. If there is a hotel near where we walk, I find more cans because people seem to toss them out their windows as they drive along."  It's become contagious and now other club members also contribute cans to the collection.

Mr Barnett takes his cans to Dowson's Service Station in Wonthaggi, where he receives payment of between 40c and 50c per kilogram. He presents a cheque for the proceeds to the walking club twice a year and proudly handed over $240 at the club's annual meeting in June.

Besides helping to clean up the countryside, every cent he earns through his self-called ‘labour of love', goes to help cancer research.  And he's been doing this since he and his wife joined the walking group 10 years ago.

"I had the choice of continuing to play golf on men's day, Tuesday, or go walking with my wife, and I made the right choice," Mr Barnett said.

He chuckles when told he looks fit.

"I don't like people telling me how well I look," he said, "because when I go to a mate's funeral, people usually say ‘I only saw him yesterday, and he looked as fit as a fiddle!'


We're not sure if it was the chilly wind on the Inverloch foreshore, but Mr Barnett definitely had a tear in his eye when The Cancer Council Victoria recently recognised him for his years of voluntary fundraising services. 

He was presented with a framed thank-you certificate and volunteer service badge in front of the Peregrine Walking club, a surprise organised by fellow walker, Kathy Maffett.  "It's not often that Harry is lost for words," Kathy said. 

The Peregrine Walking Group has no doubt they can keep their team on the track for 24 hours at this year's Bass Coast Relay For Life, which will be held on 10 and 11 November at the Cowes Football Oval. They will join up to 50 other teams who will pitch their tents around the oval and enjoy a community festival atmosphere created with entertainment, activities, food and fun for all ages.

Money raised will go towards the Cancer Council's important cancer research, education and support services to help reduce the impact of cancer on the Victorian community.  The 2005 Bass Coast Relay For Life raised an incredible $55,000.

For more information about Relay For Life or to register a team, call 1300 65 65 85 or visit http://www.relayforlife.org.au/.


Interviews and images available on request.

Media contact: Steve Fuery, phone 0428 101 400 or  e-mail sfuery@waterfront.net.au