Paul Harris recognition for young cancer survivor on a mission to give back

Presented with the Young Person of the Year award in 2020 and the NSW Women of the Year ‘One to Watch’ award in March, Dubbo’s Molly Croft is no stranger to acclaim. Now, the teenage cancer survivor has a Paul Harris Fellowship to add to the haul… although accolades have nothing to do with her commitment to ‘Service Above Self’.

By Kylie Hatfield

Molly Croft is a young woman on a mission, to raise funds and awareness for cancer research and become a voice for youth. After going straight from the courts of representative basketball and netball to fighting osteosarcoma with aggressive chemotherapy, 15-year-old Molly is drawing on her own experience to be the change she wants to see.

In 2018, on her 12th birthday, Molly was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in the bone of her leg. Following chemotherapy to reduce the cancer and surgery to replace her bone with a metal rod, Molly continued treatment from the Sydney Children’s Hospital at Westmead while her family stayed at the nearby Ronald McDonald House (RMH).

PICTURED: Young cancer survivor Molly Croft appeared on Channel Nine’s Today show to share her story and promote Molly’s Mission. Molly, centre, was joined by her sister Maddison Croft, left, Today show host Brooke Boney, and her parents Ange and John Croft.

The care and support they were given was a catalyst for the next stage of Molly’s journey: she established Molly’s Mission with the aim of giving back.

“When it was time to leave after 292 nights in the House, it was natural to want to give something back to them. It costs $160 per night to house a family at RMH; I can proudly say Molly’s Mission has raised more than $188,500, which is nearly 1180 nights for families,” said Molly.

And that was just the beginning. Molly continues to raise funds for RMH while lending her support to other organisations, including the Cooper Rice-Brading Foundation, which works to raise awareness and funds for sarcoma research.

“Sarcoma represents over 20 per cent of all childhood cancers yet receives less than one per cent of cancer funding. Sadly, it is also predicted by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare to be the leading cause of cancer related deaths in 10 to 24-year-olds this year,” said Molly.

“I know I am one of the lucky ones and I will do anything to help this amazing organisation, whose founders sadly lost their Cooper to the same type of cancer I was diagnosed with.”

Molly is an ambassador for the Fight Cancer Foundation’s Footy Colours Day, which helps to fund ‘Back on Track’, a program within the Sydney Children’s Hospital Network that assists young cancer patients and survivors to return to school. And she’s involved with the Tie Dye Project after meeting Australian Diamonds netballer Amy Parmenter, who started the organisation following the loss of her own mother to cancer.

“The Tie Dye Project raises money for amazing causes and spreads our message of hope to look for a rainbow in every day no matter how hard the day gets. This was the motto I used through my journey in hospital,” said Molly.

Giving back to the community is also a family affair, with Molly and her mother Ange sitting on the local committee for the newly established Dubbo branch of Country Hope, an organisation that helps local children and their families who are suffering from life-threatening illnesses.

PICTURED: Fifteen-year-old Paul Harris recipient Molly Croft was also presented with the One to Watch Award at the 2021 New South Wales Women of the Year Awards in March.

The Rotary Club of South Dubbo (RCSD) has contributed funds to the establishment of the local branch of Country Hope, following their previous support of Molly’s Mission led by former President Brett ‘Macca’ McCarthy.

“Macca turned up to my 13th birthday party with a cheque from South Dubbo Rotary for $5000 to be donated to Molly’s Mission,” said Molly.

“RCSD is an amazing group of community-minded, kind people; I feel like having their support is like having a whole mentor group all my own.”

Molly has attended and spoken at RCSD meetings, and in April was presented with a Paul Harris Fellowship in recognition of her significant contribution to the community.

“Humbled is the only word I can use. These Rotary members have all done so much for our community, for them to think I was worthy of this Fellowship will really stay with me forever. It will definitely help keep me focused on the fact that we can all make a difference, no matter how big or small our part is,” said Molly.

For Brett, who presented Molly with the Fellowship, her young age only made her achievements more inspirational.

“It was all about Molly’s commitment to ‘Service Above Self’. Molly inspired all of us in her determination to ignore the illness she had to find a way to support so many others who were just as sick,” said Brett.

Molly was also named the ‘One to Watch’ in the New South Wales Women of the Year Awards earlier this year, and is a NSW Youth Advisory Council Advocate, which she describes as a really important role, as it provides a voice for children and young people right across the state.

“None of what I do is about me; it’s about honouring the taken, those still fighting and being a voice for the future patients not yet diagnosed. We have lots to do in fixing not only the statistics of childhood cancer but refining the treatments so the long-term effects after cancer aren’t the reality that faces children today,” said Molly.

“I have lost friends and I know how terrible this disease can be. I am here for a reason, and I want to continue to be a voice for so many.”