Tips and Ideas

May 10, 2019

Get to know Dr Nick Gottardo

Funds raised through 2019 Pirate Day in May will be directed to the ground-breaking research of this paediatric oncologist.

Dr Nick Gottardo believes he was destined to be a doctor. He knew from the age of six that medicine was his future. Growing up in the Northern Italian village of Sondalo in the 1970s, he would spend time with family friends who worked at the local hospital and was in awe of the stethoscopes they wore around their necks.

“I could see that they were helping people and I wanted to do this, too,” he said. “I’ve never wanted to do anything else.”

True to his early ambition, Dr Gottardo has dedicated his professional life to medicine and is now the Head of Oncology and Haematology at Perth Children’s hospital and co-head of Telethon Kids Institute’s Brain Tumour Research Team.

With vital funding support from The Kids’ Cancer Project, he is currently working on a research project that may dramatically improve the lives of children undergoing cancer treatment.

Passion from childhood

Dr Gottardo’s interest in oncology also stems from his childhood days.

A young girl in his village required an urgent blood transfusion as part of her treatment for leukemia and the local hospital rallied the villagers to donate blood.

“I can clearly remember waking up in the middle of the night when my father got a call to come and donate blood because the girl was in desperate need,” said Dr Gottardo.

“She passed away a few days later and my father, who is now 72, still carries a photo of her in his wallet. This memory has always stayed with me and I’ve always thought that if she’d been born today, we would have been able to cure her,” he said.

The future doctor moved with his family to the UK when he was eight and he went on to study medicine at University of Leeds.

A desire to see the world brought him to Australia with a working holiday visa in the mid 1990s. He worked as a locum at hospitals in New South Wales and Western Australia, but his heart was always in paediatrics.

“One of my rotations was in oncology and I realised that I wanted to dedicate my life to trying to cure kids of cancer,” he said.

Life-changing research

Dr Gottardo’s study aims to uncover new treatment for children with medulloblastoma (which is the most common brain cancer in children) and reduce the long-term toxicity associated with current treatments.

“The cure rates of medulloblastoma are about 70 per cent overall, but we know that the children who survive are left with significant long-term side effects from the radiation therapy as it has to be given to the whole of the brain and spinal column,” he explained.

“The side effects can really impact a child’s ability to grow and live productive lives with dignity.”

His research involves combining a drug called prexasertib (iCHK) with radiotherapy in order to reduce the necessary radiation dosage. The drug works by inhibiting the ability of cancer cells to repair themselves after the DNA damage caused by chemotherapy or radiation.

“The drug only works well in combination with other treatments,” said Dr Gottardo, who was nominated and a finalist for WA’s Australian of the Year Award in 2018.

“If it can make radiation more effective by preventing cancer cells from repairing themselves, can we use less radiation and therefore improve the quality of life of the survivors? That’s what we’re testing now,” he said.

Vital funding

The Kids’ Cancer Project has been funding this scientific study since July 2018. It involves treating Avatar models of medulloblastoma, developed using medulloblastoma cancer cells taken from patients at the time of surgery to remove their tumour, with a combination of iCHK and radiation.

Dr Gottardo is now working closely with scientists across the globe, including those at St Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, where he spent three years as a post-doctoral brain tumour fellow.

The plan is to take the drug into a clinical trial with chemotherapy as part of a collaboration with St Jude’s.

“That will give us data and safety to use it for children with brain tumours in combination with chemotherapy and, if our experiments prove effective, it may also be used in a clinical trial in the next five years in combination with radiation,” said Dr Gottardo.

“We need to bear in mind that the drug itself may have side effects and that’s why it’s essential that we be so rigorous in our research.”

Dr Gottardo said the funding from The Kids’ Cancer Project is vital to the future of childhood cancer treatment.

“Our aim to take the findings from our lab into the clinic, and that’s why this funding is so important,” he said. “The experiments are highly sophisticated, and the ultimate goal is to improve the lives of children with cancer.”

April 18, 2019

Pirate Day in May 2019 Announced

Right across the nation, children, office workers and whole townships are encouraged to embrace their inner buccaneer and dress up like a pirate throughout the month of May in support of childhood brain cancer research.

Previously known as Pirate Day Friday and held in June, organisers have taken a collaborative approach to fighting the disease by aligning with May’s Brain Cancer Action Month.

Now in its fifth year, the filibuster fundraiser has become a national favourite with its aim to raise money and awareness for research into the treatment and cure of childhood brain cancer – a disease that kills more children in Australia than any other.

Pirate Day in May was a concept conceived in tragic circumstances when in 2014 Nathan Colgan of Perth, learned his son, Conor (then five-years-old), had an aggressive brain tumour. Read more

“The more I read up on the disease, the more heart broken I became,” the distraught dad shared.

“I discovered that for every two children diagnosed with a brain tumour, one will sadly lose their life. And the ones that do survive often have severe, lasting side effects. The only way to change this is to put more funding into scientific research,” said Nathan.

By donning of an eye patch and making a donation, every Australian can make a serious difference.

Last year more than 600 schools and early learning centres around Australia along with workplaces and rum bars got behind the cause. Since Pirate Day Friday started in 2015, over $280,000 has been raised for scientific studies to find kinder, more effective treatments for the disease that childhood cancer research.

All funds raised from the campaign, which is a collaboration between The Kids’ Cancer Project and The Pirate Ship Foundation, are directed to funding vital childhood brain cancer research.

This year, funds will be directed specifically to Dr Nick Gottardo, a paediatric oncologist and scientist based at The Telethon Kids’ Institute in Western Australia. Read more

Col Reynolds OAM, founder of The Kids’ Cancer Project is delighted with the initiative.

“It’s great to have a bit of fun to fundraise despite the serious nature of kids’ cancer. Many people aren’t aware that the causes of childhood cancer are unknown, that there is no prevention and that research is the only way to improve treatments and survival,” he said. 

The Kids’ Cancer Project is an independent national charity supporting childhood cancer research. Over the past 14 years, the charity has committed more than $36 million in funding to childhood cancer research. Funding that’s only been possible through community fundraising events.

“It is only through research that my son Conor, who is now nine, has defied the odds and is still with us today,” said Nathan. “I wish I could say he has been cured of his illness but sadly his fight against cancer is not yet over and neither is mine.”

“Our journey continues, but with the support of every Australian who takes part in Pirate Day, we have the courage to keep going,” Nathan said.

All Australian’s are encouraged to register their Pirate Day in May at or make a donation online at

The facts:

  • Brain tumours are the most common form of solid tumours among children.
  • Brain cancer kills more children in Australia than any other disease[1]
  • As with other tumours in kids and adults, surgery is the primary treatment, usually followed by radiation treatment and/or chemotherapy.
  • Because a child’s brain is still developing, these treatments can result in more substantial and permanent side effects than they would for an adult. 


Linda Fagan
02 8394 7752

[1] Australian Bureau of Statistics (published 2012 – 2016), 3303.0 Causes of Death, Australia (2011 – 2015),  ‘Table 1.3: Underlying cause of death, Selected causes by age at death, numbers and rates, Australia, Ages 1 – 14 (2011 – 2015).

April 17, 2019

Your step by step guide

We hope everyone in your crew enjoys dressing up and having fun despite the seriousness of childhood brain cancer. Here’s a few tips on what you can do to get started:

Display the poster. You’ll find posters to download in the Party gear section here.

Get in the news. Schools and small businesses often send newsletters out, and local press love a good news story. Share your Pirate Day in May activity among your local community and they might join in the fun too.

Dress up! Everyone including teachers, office workers and retailers can get involved by wearing pirate stripes. You can even download and eye patch and a jaunty paper bandana from our Party gear section.

Collect treasure. In this case, a gold coin donation from everyone who participates. Funds raised go towards childhood brain cancer research.

Choose an activity. Do something fun that reinforces why everyone is dressed as a pirate on the day. You’ll find a bunch of ideas linked to the Australian Curriculum by age group in the Teachers’ aid section here or in this article.

HAVE FUN! Thank you for bringing attention to, and raising money for, childhood brain cancer research. Post all your fun photos on social media using #piratedayinmay.

Some important things to know about childhood cancer

  • Cancer kills more children in Australia than any other disease. Brain cancer is the most serious of all the different cancer types.
  • You can’t catch cancer. It’s not like a cold.
  • The treatment given to kids affects their bodies inside and out. They might lose their hair, but they are still themselves, so we shouldn’t be afraid of being their friend.
  • Cancer is a disease. It can make people feel sad and angry. We should talk about how we feel when someone we know has cancer. Talk to someone you trust if you are feeling upset, worried or sad.
  • We are smart. Doctors, scientists and researchers are working to find better treatments and a cure for all childhood cancers, including brain cancer.
  • Everyone can do something to help. Even small things like carrying your friend’s books if they aren’t feeling well. Or send a card or goody bag when they’re in hospital so they know you’re thinking of them.

What doctors, scientists and researchers are doing

All over Australia medical professionals such as doctors, scientists and researchers are working hard to learn more about cancer so that they can find better treatments to help children with the disease get better quicker with no nasty side effects.

Why we need your help

Government funding for medical research only stretches so far. By participating in Pirate Day in May you are helping provide much needed funds for research. The two charities, The Kids’ Cancer Project and The Pirate Ship Foundation who collaboratively run Pirate Day in May, will allocate money raised to brain cancer research projects.

In 2019, funds raised will go toward a study lead by Dr Nick Gottardo at Telethon Kids Institute in Perth. His team aim to find new treatments for medulloblastoma to reduce the long-term toxicities associated with radiation therapy.

Everyone can help

We’ve learned that awareness leads to fundraising, which leads to more scientists able to search for better treatments and a cure. So, when you unleash your inner scallywag, you’re helping in two important ways.

We wish you every success for this fun and informative day.

April 17, 2019

10 fundraising tips from the professionals

The Kids’ Cancer Project and Pirate Ship Foundation are so grateful when ordinary people in the community hear the urgent plea and act by stepping up to help raise money for childhood brain cancer research. It can be a daunting task, but with guidance from the professionals at The Kids’ Cancer Project, you’ll be collecting some serious cash for the kids in no time at all. 

  1. Create an online fundraising page

When you fundraise for Pirate Day in May, you’ll be given a link to create your very own fundraising web page.

“This is an easy way to start fundraising right away,” said Kimberley, Campaigns Marketing Executive. “Personalise your page with photos and a short blurb, and then you can send the link out to your friends and family asking them to donate!”

Need help setting up your Pirate Day in May fundraising page? Call 1800 651 158 or email

  1. Tell your story

For most, when it comes to creating a personalised fundraising page, it’s the thought of writing something warm from the heart that can stop a lot of people cold. Jennie, Content Manager shares how to rid yourself of writers’ block.

“Just imagine you’re telling a friend over the phone about what you’re doing and why it means so much to you,” Jennie said. “That’s the story you write.”

“One or two paragraphs is about the length you need, so if you’ve written too much, see where you might have repeated yourself and shorten,” she said.

“If you haven’t written enough, add more details, colours, emotion. Using imagery in words can be very powerful tool; for instance, instead of ‘drop’ use words like plunge, sink, crash.”

“Whatever you write, make sure the message is clear and that you tell people what you want them to do.”

  1. Ask, ask, ask

Don’t be afraid to ask your network of friends and family three to seven times for donations is the advice of Melanie, Community Fundraising Executive.

“You will need to remind your friends and family to donate,” she said. “Especially those who have said they’ll donate, or ‘liked’ your posts about the event.”

For most of us, asking for money doesn’t come naturally which is why it’s easy to mistakenly believe that a few gentle reminders might be perceived as harassment.

“People often just genuinely forget,” said Melanie. “And if you remind them on payday they’ll probably come through.”

  1. Say thank you

Regular Giving Executive, Dane, knows the power of thank you and has this advice.

“If you want to raise funds, it’s important to send proper thank you letters,” he said. “A personal note of thanks to let each donor know how much it means to you that they’ve donated is golden.”

You might also mention where you are up to with your fundraising goal, who knows, they may have a friend who will support you too. Or maybe they’ll be prompted to give another donation to help you meet your target.

  1. All about YOU

Whether you’re writing your story or updating social media, even if a donor is passionate about your cause, he or she will stop giving if your messages focus only on what you and the charity you’re fundraising for needs.

Linda, Head of Marketing and Fundraising, suggests turning the tables.

“Use ‘you’ instead of ‘I’ in your fundraising asks,” she said. “Make the donation appeal about the donors and their merits.”

“It can be as simple as saying, ‘by donating you will help future generations of children diagnosed with cancer’,” said Linda.

  1. Just do it

National Engagement Executive, Kate, advocates the motto of a famous sports brand; doing something is better than nothing at all.

“It’s easy to get caught up in your head and want to make everything perfect before you start fundraising,” she said. “My advice is stop postponing your plans just because they’re not flawless and start doing something now.”

  1. Pictures tell many words

“Are you baking? Setting up a pirate picnic? Whatever you are doing to fundraise, capture the journey in photos.”

That’s the advice of Graphic Designer, Nicole, who knows first-hand that pictures speak for themselves.

“It’s not so hard to keep your social media and your fundraising page updated with the little things you’re doing to prepare,” she said. “And it builds anticipation for the big day when you finally get there.”

  1. Don’t just post, interact

Vicky, Digital Marketing Manager is a huge advocate for all the social mediums we have at our fingertips.

“Email and social media are great platforms to deliver your ask,” she said. “When people respond, be sure to interact with them – keep the chat going.”

“’Like’ their comments, thank them for their support,” she said. “You can even tag and shout out to the followers who are helping you reach your goal.”

“Another hint is to ask people who are supporting you to share your posts. If 950 children are diagnosed with cancer every year, it’s likely that a friend of a friend of a friend has been affected and will be enthusiastic about what you’re doing.”

  1. Make a match

Natalie, Partnerships Executive recommends asking the boss for support.

“Some organisations have philanthropic programs where they dollar match money raised by employees for charity,” said Natalie. “If your organisation doesn’t have a dollar matching program, still ask! All charitable donations over $2 are tax-deductable so they may still help you reach your fundraising goal.”

Pluck up the courage to seek out other businesses in your neighbourhood who will get behind your fundraising. Your local café might be interested in helping you raffle off a meal voucher or be willing to put a fundraising tin near their cash register for loose change.

  1. Bright ideas

“Over the years’ we’ve had fundraisers who have come up with some of the most creative ideas to generate extra dollars for medical research,” said Kathryn, Community & Campaigns Manager.

“One fellow held a lavish dinner party for his friends and charged them each $150 to enjoy fine food and wine at his home. A couple liaised with their local cinema and sold special tickets for a fun family movie night.”

“But often it’s the simple ideas that are the most effective,” Kathryn said.

“Challenge your friends to go without coffee for a week and donate the money they save to your campaign,” she said. “That will be around $20 if they work in the city!”

April 17, 2019

Organise your crew

Or how to turn a bunch of landlubbers into pirates for Pirate Day in May

So you want to organise a Pirate Day in May but don’t know where to start. Here are our top tips to help you get your crew and ship in shape.

The elevator pitch

People will look at you in disbelief when you say you want to dress up as a pirate in May. And they’ll quickly about face when you suggest they do likewise. That is unless of course you know the important facts to sell the Pirate Day campaign to them in less time than it takes to go from Ground to Level 1.

Hoist the mainsail!

This is what you need to know to get started:

  • Pirate Day in May was a concept conceived in tragic circumstances when, in 2014, Nathan Colgan of Perth, learned his son, Conor (then aged 5), had an aggressive brain tumour.
  • Today, Pirate Day in May is a national initiative to raise awareness and funds for research into the treatment and cure of childhood brain cancer.
  • In 2018, 66,000 pirates across Australia raised more than $85,000 for childhood brain cancer. This year’s goal is a whopping $100,000!
  • Schools, early learning centres, workplaces and whole towns get involved year after year.
  • All funds raised in partnership with The Pirate Ship Foundation and The Kids’ Cancer Project are directed towards vital childhood brain cancer research.

Backed by the boss

With the people at the top supporting you on this venture, you’ll be able to gather more cohorts, plaster posters around the place, post messages on the intranet, items in newsletters and most importantly, you’ll be able to ask them to match your donations. Yarr!

Ready to register

Choose a date you want to set sail and you’ll be ready to head to, complete the registration form and get the pirate party started!

Campaign for a cause

Make it your mission to download the official poster artwork from the Party gear section of the website. Print and pop them up all around your town, workplace or school so everyone knows when they need to break out their buccaneering best. Spread the word to get as many people involved as possible – think company announcement, general assembly, newsletter, intranet, social media group page.

Fresh way to fundraise

Download and print this fun treasure chest that you can cut out, stick together and use to collect gold coin donations from everyone who has dressed up.

Buccaneer bake sale

Collecting gold coins is what Pirate Day in May is all about. But if you want to take your fundraising efforts one step further, enlist the dough punchers among your crew to bake pirate inspired treats. Sea biscuit anyone? Sounds jolly, Roger. We’ve loads more ideas here.

Weigh anchor and set sail

Pirate Day in May is fun for everyone. Spend the day sharing pirate puns, singing sea shanties and posing for photos (#piratedayinmay), all while raising money for childhood brain cancer research! For anyone who forgets to wear their pirate duds, download, print, cut out and make an eye patch and bandana.

April 17, 2019

18 pirate party ideas

Pirate Day in May is a fun day of getting in touch with your inner Long John Silver, Captain Kidd or Jack Sparrow.

Set sail for adventure with these fun ideas.​

  1. Go bold and dress up in full pirate regalia. Think velvet coat, parrot on the shoulder, striped pants and gold earrings.
  2. Be subtle, wear a striped t-shirt and throw the occasional ‘me heartie’ into conversation.
  3. Hold a buccaneer bake sale or sell pirate inspired treats to raise extra gold coins for childhood brain cancer.
  4. Host pirate trivia quiz with a mix of questions about factual and fictitious filibusters.
  5. Enlist your ship mates to “walk the plank”. All you need is a low balance beam and some wet sponges. $1 buys a throw to see if you can knock them over!
  6. Discover classic pirate stories in Peter Pan (J M Barrie), Treasure Island (Robert Louis Stevenson) and Robinson Crusoe (Daniel Defoe).
  7. Host a Pirates of the Caribbean mega movie marathon.
  8. Organise a treasure hunt.
  9. Have a pirate crafternoon. Download, printout and make our hats, bandanas and treasure chests from
  10. Do a pirate ‘runch’ – that’s a lunchtime run dressed as a pirate.
  11. Have a pirate ship building competition using cardboard boxes, toilet rolls, crepe paper and paint. See who can build the best boat from recyclable materials.
  12. Set the challenge to talk like a pirate all day. Gold coin donation for anyone who doesn’t start a conversation with ‘Aarrrgh’.
  13. Create an epic pirate music playlist.
  14. Get snappy and take as many pirate photos as you can to post on social media with #piratedayinmay
  15. Stand-up gig pirate style to see who has the best pirate joke. Have you heard the one about the flexible pirate? He went to pilarrrrties and yogarrrrrgh!
  16. Tell your local newspaper about your fundraiser and invite them for a pirate photo call.
  17. Hold a pirate sports day with pirate games like bob for gold, pin the ponytail on the pirate and a good old-fashioned tug o’ war.
  18. Head to the beach or the nearest sandpit to build sandcastles.
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