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Matt Dun named Lake Mac Ambassador for 2023

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Pioneering childhood brain cancer researcher and fundraiser Associate Professor Matt Dun has been named Lake Macquarie’s Ambassador of the Year for 2023.

He took out the city’s top annual honour at Saturday night’s Lake Mac Awards ceremony at Belmont 16s, with NRLW premiership-winning Knights star Jesse Southwell securing Lake Mac Sports Star and Camp Quality stalwart Ali Kimmorley Volunteer of the Year.

Lake Macquarie City mayor Kay Fraser said Professor Dun was not only a world leader in childhood brain cancer research, he also spearheaded efforts to raise millions of dollars through his RUN DIPG charity after the tragic loss of his own daughter, Josie, to the disease.

“There could be no better representative of our city than someone like Matt, who has given so selflessly to others,” she explained.

“He is a researcher, a fundraiser, an amazing dad, a proud Lake Mac resident and now our city’s Ambassador.

“We are all humbled by his work, and the way he has dealt with tremendous personal loss to provide hope for others.”

While Professor Dun could not attend Saturday’s awards, he recorded a video thanking other finalists and the Lake Macquarie community.

“I’m most proud that we’ve worked tirelessly to identify new drugs and treatment strategies, and to have started international clinical trials,” he said.

“I’m also extremely proud of the critical role that RUN DIPG and our Lake Macquarie community has played in support of our vision.

“If Josie were here with us today, she would want nothing more than a future where children diagnosed with cancer are given every chance to live a long, happy and healthy life.”

Just a year on from being a young sports star finalist, Southwell described the past 12 months, in which she won an NRLW premiership, a Commonwealth Games gold medal in rugby sevens and was named NRLW Dally M Rookie of the Year, as “a whirlwind”.

“It has been a year full of highlights and amazing experiences for me,” she said.

“I can’t wait for the year to come – hopefully bigger and better things for all of us.”

Lake Mac 12-year-old Sophie Berude was named the city’s Young Citizen of the Year for her work raising money for sick kids in the Hunter.

She was just six when diagnosed with leukemia, but beat the disease and set her mind to ‘paying it forward’ by helping other ill children as a youth ambassador for cancer charity Redkite.

Opera Hunter’s 2022 efforts won the city’s inaugural Event of the Year – setting the tone for the category’s first appearance in the annual awards line-up.

OzHarvest was named Lake Mac Environmental Leader for its work across the city in 2022, channelling more than 300 tonnes of unused food to local charities.

Foster carer Astrid Hocking’s lifelong dedication to causes and charities supporting children culminated in her winning this year’s Senior of the Year award.

Veteran skateboarder Russell Grundy, who has helped design skate parks and events across the city, was named Lake Mac Sports Leader, while pint-sized karate champion Melissa Valentina Baez won Young Sports Star for 2023.

Cr Fraser congratulated all finalists and winners for this year’s awards, which attracted a record field of nominations.

“The Lake Mac Awards are an opportunity for all of us to pay tribute to the tireless and selfless work thousands of people right across our city undertake every day,” she said.

“It’s work that often goes unnoticed and without fanfare, but we appreciate it so much, and we are a better community for it.”

Lake Mac Awards 2023

  • Lake Mac Ambassador – Matt Dun
  • Lake Mac Young Citizen – Sophie Berude
  • Lake Mac Volunteer – Ali Kimmorley
  • Lake Mac Sports Star – Jesse Southwell
  • Lake Mac Senior of the Year – Astrid Hocking
  • Lake Mac Environmental Leader – OzHarvest
  • Lake Mac Community Group of the Year – ADRA Op Shop Morisset
  • Lake Mac Arts Leader – Dennis Blanch
  • Lake Mac Young Sports Star – Melissa Valentina Baez
  • Lake Mac Sports Leader – Russell Grundy
  • Lake Mac Community Event of the Year – Opera Hunter
  • Lake Mac Artist and Creator – Forbidden Fruit Photography

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