Sydney's Wooloomooloo Wharf was a sea of recognisable faces. Australian celebrities were out in force for the Sony Foundation's Wharf4Ward extravaganza last month, raising money for youth cancer centres around the country.
Karl Stefanovic shared MC duties with Richard Wilkins. NRL superstar Johnathan Thurston was mingling with the crowd. Roxy Jacenko entered into a bidding war with husband Oliver Curtis in The CEO Magazine's silent auction. And a host of chart-topping singers led by Jess Mauboy and Daryl Braithwaite graced the stage.
But when bubbly teen Maddi Delaney stepped up to the mic, nobody was more enthralling.
The 17-year-old guest speaker followed a stirring video tribute to young Australians fighting cancer. And she was there as a beacon of hope having just beaten leukaemia.
Rewind 12 months, and Maddi had just returned from a state volleyball competition, representing NSW, when her world was turned upside down.
“It started off as a bad joke,” she told the 1000-strong crowd.
“Two nurses, a doctor, an oncologist and a social worker walk into a room… That bad joke, quickly turned into a rapid-fire round of diagnosis, treatment, fertility options and introductions to people I would never have thought I’d ever meet.
“The leukaemia that had taken over 95% of my good cells was a silent killer, and I had just caught it in the act.”
She spoke about the first cancer-stricken friend she leaned on for support after diagnosis. Ceren, who became like an "older sister" to Maddie, sadly passed away last year.
“I know she is in a better place, away from all the drugs and needles, but I miss her every single day,” she said.
I know she is in a better place, away from all the drugs and needles, but I miss her every single day.
Finn, another child taken far too soon, was remembered by Maddi. His “classmates should never have had to form a guard of honour so his casket would make it safely to his final resting place”, she added.
While she had no trouble making grown men well up with tears, the speech was full of humour and positivity too.
Like the others interviewed in the video, she credited the ‘You Can' youth centres with keeping her spirits up.
Instead of being stuck in a ward with 90-year-olds, youngsters aged 15 to 25 have a place where they can share their experiences with people their own age. Peers who understand the rollercoaster of emotions they are dealing with every day.
That's why the Sony Foundation's Wharf4Ward event is so important. This year's fundraiser added another $1.3 million to the $4.4 million already raised in previous years. The wonderful philanthropic effort will help pay for You Can centres in hospitals across Australia, as part of the Friends4Youth campaign.
You can lend your support to the cause by either downloading the Sony Music stars charity single — ‘Get by with a little help from my friends', or by donating directly at Friends4Youth.