Scientists innovate to continue 20 years supporting appeal

Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness scientists Sue Lowther and Chrissy Rootes, and director Trevor Drew place baubles on their 'giving tree'. (Louisa Jones) 221561_10

By Luke Voogt

Geelong scientists working on potentially life-saving COVID-19 vaccines and treatments have devised a creative fundraiser to continue their 20 years supporting Bethany’s Giving Tree Appeal.

CSIRO’s Geelong social club is holding raffles, rather than donating gifts, for the annual appeal which the club has supported since it began, according to committee member Sue Lowther.

The Belmont grandmother started 36 years ago as a lab technician at Geelong’s Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness, joining the social club in her first year.

This year the club has created 25 hampers to raffle with themes including coffee, board games and even a gardening box featuring plants and secateurs.

“I’d probably go the wine one to be honest – it’s kind of become a COVID hobby,” she said.

“We tried to buy locally where we could.”

The social club is already donating funds it would normally spend on Christmas parties and other events cancelled due to COVID-19.

For every $10 raised in the raffles the club will hang another bauble on its resident Christmas tree.

“We’re more than willing to go and get another if we fill this one,” Sue said.

Sue has worked in life-saving research with her colleagues on viruses including Ebola, Nipah and Hendra, along with 15 years studying the flu.

More recently, they have conducted animal trials for COVID-19 vaccines and tested treatments on a lab-created lung structures.

“We’re a small part of the big picture,’ Sue said.

For the first time Geelong Giving Tree Appeal organisers are calling monetary donations instead of gifts, in a COVID-safe bid to raise $100,000 for gift cards for disadvantaged families.


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