John Van Klaveren
A MOTORISED scooter called Ruby and a black Labrador named Chevy have become a familiar sight on the streets of Barwon Heads at this time of year.
Both are driven by Jenny Kerr on her annual mission – doorknocking for the Heart Foundation appeal.
But getting out and about is a challenge for Jenny – she has severe rheumatoid arthritis, which is why she scooters about the coastal town.
Jenny has suffered the affliction since she was 18. She has undergone operations and put up with the resulting lack of balance and inability to walk any significant distance, especially on uneven ground.
However, the arthritis has failed to stop Jenny, who has embarked on her third annual rounds as a doorknocker for Australia’s leading heart health charity.
Jenny has also fired up Ruby for other doorknocks such as the Red Shield appeal and for diabetes fundraisers.
But it’s the Heart Foundation that has captured her – well – heart.
The community-minded 56-year-old has a very personal reason for making the effort.
“My mother died several years ago from cardiovascular disease,” Jenny confides.
“My husband Gary had a double bypass operation in 2001 and, thankfully, he is now doing very well.
“Making a contribution eases the pain. There’s not a day goes by when I don’t think of mum.
“I’ll never forget but it makes things a bit easier.
“Because of those experiences, I’ve always tried to have an active and healthy lifestyle.
“I also think that what the Heart Foundation does is pretty good. The message speaks for itself – it highlights the importance of being healthy and getting out and exercising.
“I’m restricted to the scooter most of the time, but it’s important to get out and about no matter what your circumstances.”
And that’s just what Jenny does, along with Chevy who sometimes carries the donations bag for her.
“Doorknocking allows me the chance to be active and to get out and say hello. It does me good,” Jenny said.
“Sometimes if I’m having a bad day I don’t get out of the house. It can be easier sometimes to not even bother.”
Jenny recalls losing her last dog, Brock.
“You can be down in the dumps and sometimes feel so many little things are out of reach but the doorknock gives me an incentive to get out.”
Jenny manages to negotiate some not so scooter-friendly terrain, has duelled with cars in driveways and even dealt with a paint-splattered donor who was in the middle of some renovations.
The pair is a popular team and Jenny’s neighbours are supportive of her efforts.
“It’s nice when I get out and a lot of people in the street come over because they know I’m doorknocking for the Heart Foundation,” she said.
“The community is great. There’s always a collection of some sort going on but everyone is aware of the Heart Foundation and thinks of it as pretty important.
“People expect me at a certain time of the year.”
Heart Foundation chief executive officer Kathy Bell, said the Doorknock Appeal relied on volunteers like Jenny.
“Most of our funding comes from donations from the public and is essential to helping reduce the suffering and death caused by heart disease in Australia,” Kathy said.
“This appeal is the largest community-led fundraising program for the Heart Foundation and we couldn’t do it without people like Jenny.”
Jenny will still be donning her official Heart Foundation volunteer collector badge for the next couple of weeks.
People wanting to make donations but who miss Jenny on her rounds can still visit www.heartfoundation. org.au/doorknock.
John Van Klaveren