So in case you missed the news, the papers, social media or generally the buzz around town (I’m still blown away to say this…) but Alex was the toast of the town on Friday and what a day it was!

The public build up started in late January with a call from CCA to the team at Mix 102.3 talking about what is in essence a good news story. From the get-go we had been assured by the team at Childhood Cancer Association (CCA) that if there were any concerns we should bring them forward straight away, a stance taken also by the frontline team at Mix who told us several times that the aims here were for Alex to have an amazing day and for CCA to gain an increased profile moving forward. In fact they proved this to us, particularly on the big day when Alex was getting a bit tired and overwhelmed by looking after Alex first and media wants second – for that we’re very grateful, Jodie’s caring side showed through clearly and Soda’s protectiveness shone!

After the initial introduction to Alex and his story, Alex and I went into the studio to sit with the team and give them some more detail around the story and in essence add the human side to what has been broadcast already. We talked about a lot of things, the fear the pathway from surgery to chemo and ultimately onto radiation. This was used across a couple of weeks in short segments and was my first indication of how big the team at Mix wanted this to be as they were doing the main pieces in peak radio time just after 8 when they’re going to his the biggest audience possible.

The shock to me initially was the amazing levels of generosity that came forward so quickly. This list (taken directly from the Mix website) shows the donated experiences and gifts for Alex (and us) along the last few weeks.

Build A Bear
2 x $100 Build A Bear Vouchers

Zoos SA
1 x family pass Adelaide Zoo
1 x family pass to feed Giraffe
1 x special behind the scenes experience with Kids Zoo animals for Alex

Inflatable World
1 x family pass to Inflatable World Morphett Vale for 2 hours

Adelaide Symphony Orchestra
Prize will be tailored to Alex and his family

Party Poni’s Mt Barker
1 x Party Poni’s Experience

Sarah Hardaker Photography
1 x Family Photoshoot

Platinum Restaurant Services
$500 Cash

Simon Knispel
$250 Cash

McCracken Country Club
2 x night stay for the family

Royal Adelaide Show
1 x Family Value Pack to Royal Adelaide Show 2018
entry 2 adults 2 children, food & drink 4 people, 2 x $10 Show bags, $40 of BankSA Discount Ride Coupons, All day parking

Oak Tree Truffles
1 x Lolly & Chocolate Goodie Box

Tradie if Alex’s family need help around the house

Holiday House in Stansbury if Alex’s family want to holiday

Olivia Hauser
Horse ride with her horse Pippa or help get in contact with Riding for the Disabled and organise for Alex

Her hobby is scrapbooking and would love to make some great fireman style cutouts for Alex’s bedroom; they are layered paper so he can touch and feel the textures on his walls

Damon Wilkie
Owns his own catering company and hire equipment and would like to organise a fully-catered party for the family and friends of Alex including a jumping castle & popcorn machine.

The Mayfair Hotel
1 x Nights Stay at the Mayfair Hotel for Alex’s family

Stella Restaurant in Henley
1 x free dinner for Alex and his family

Ivy & Bean The Musical at Bakehouse Theatre
1 x entry for Alex and his family

The Hindley Bar and Grill
Donating digital billboard on Hindley Street on top of the venue that can be seen as you come over the Morphett street bridge
Donating $150 voucher for the family

This of course – leads to the first lot of Thank Yous. We were blown away by the outpouring of emotion and generosity associated with Alex’s story, he’s just one kid who has been through this and we are so grateful to anyone who has sent messages of support, love, best wishes for his big day.

After a couple of phone chats and another visit to the studio with the whole family, the build up shifted focus from Alex and his Firefighting dream over to the support agencies that help families and specifically CCA. It was this shift and the generosity to the Childhood Cancer Association that took this project from mind blowing (perhaps also a little overwhelming) to thrilling. There were several sizeable donations that really excited us: Alexander Symonds who donated $7500 ($5000 from the company, $2500 from staff fundraising), Bartons Chartered Accountants who donated $15,000 and Halls Cranes who donated a brand new Mazda 3 to the team. As a family who has and still does engage their services, Thank you to the companies involved.

The big day

We had a few quick calls over the days leading into the big event, got the confirmation on timings and when we were expected to be where so we got to the Wakefield St Fire Station around 10:45 and hit the ground running. There were a few logistic things to organise like booster seats for the kids and a couple of media commitments so The Project could get the footage they needed for an article that night.

Then Alex was presented his uniform by the Chief Officer of SA MFS, Greg Crossman and it has to be one of the cutest things I’ve seen in my life!

Then there was nothing to do but to wait for show time for the little man. While we waited, he got into his special new jacket and pants and played in the trucks. What else do you do when you’re a firefighter right?

I recorded the trip down Wakefield St to the site and it’s something to behold. Traffic being stopped by SA Police for us to have safe travel through and a small army of people waving and cheering for Alex as we went past, a surprisingly emotional roller-coaster for me heading to the site. I guess I didn’t realise just how much he had captured the hearts of Adelaide…

The first step once we got there was to get Alex past the pack of cameras waiting for him to the main area of action and get him into his harness, another dose of cute for the day. Then clipped into the Bronto and off he went (I was just there really to make sure he stayed calm) to save the day when part way up we found out that there was someone to rescue: Surprise number 1 for the day for the crowd when Port Adelaide Football Club Captain and all round (except on the footy field) nice guy Travis Boak emerges from the window. Quite the dramatic moment emerging from the smoke to cheers and applause.

We were told once we (to his relief) got Travis on the ground that there was someone else to rescue – Surprise #2 – Erin Phillips

And in half an hour, Alex became not just an inspiration to our family and those that have known him through his journey but to thousands more who now see him as a hero also. I could go on here and there were some formalities that happened shortly after, presentation where Alex got his Fire Chief status officially awarded to him, the Adelaide City Crest and a couple of customised football guernseys (thanks again to both clubs).

Image credits to Keryn Stevens from the Advertiser.

I’d like to specifically mention the $20,000 that the Premier, Mr Jay Weatherill put towards CCA at the presentations.

For us the positives are that Alex had an amazing day, met some wonderful people through the experience and CCA have a massively increased profile from the exercise that will help them continue their work which not just helps, but carries people through a dark time in their lives – I know all too well the dark places in your head when you’re there and they carried me at times too.

For anyone looking for a bit more of a multimedia wrap up, Today Tonight did a wonderful piece, The Project had short piece on that night, Mix 102.3 had a nice little wrap up (below) and were live streaming to their Facebook page throughout the event.

Thanks to

  • Jodie and Soda from Mix 102.3 who had the idea to bring Adelaide to a standstill
  • The team at Mix who made us feel so welcome every time we talked to anyone, visited the studio or had any other interaction
  • Premier Jay Weatherill for granting permission for the traffic management to be put in place
  • Lord Mayor Martin Haese
  • The Government of South Australia for the support to the event
  • Rundle Mall Management for their support of the event
  • Haigs for the use of the building
  • The day wouldn’t have happened without the SA MFS being so accommodating. So to Greg Crossman (Chief Officer), Mike “Mango” Morgan (Deputy Chief) and the whole team involved at the MFS – our sincerest and heartfelt thanks. Alex really felt a part of the team on the day and enjoyed his interactions with everyone
  • SA Police for the escort down Wakefield St and King William to the site – quite a surreal feeling being escorted by Police instead of chased by… KIDDING!!! 😀
  • SA Ambulance for presence and support on the day
  • SA SES who I saw on the day floating around, but didn’t manage to get to say hi
  • Travis Boak and the Port Adelaide Football Club for your presence on the day, it meant a lot to Alex to have Travis there and to me personally
  • Erin Phillips and the Adelaide Football Club, particularly with the injury Erin has been managing for a while – your time on the day was that much more special
  • Rachel Leahcar who made time to come down and introduce Alex to her dog Ella, a much welcomed break for Alex and he’s loving the CD – Thank you!
  • LHD Group for the painfully cute uniforms that both Alex and Jenny are now sporting
  • Tradies Workwear for the ridiculously cute boots both the kids are arguing about wearing to bed!
  • St Aloysius College for the truly astounding student presence along Wakefield St
  • The beautiful Rosanna and team from Today Tonight for articles leading into and after the event
  • The Project for taking Alex’s story national and (hopefully) the CCA awareness
  • The Advertiser for the coverage on the day and day after
  • Any other businesses, organisations or parties involved that I’ve missed or overlooked in any way here…

To every single person who attended on the day, sent messages on social media of love and well wishes or in any other way supported the event. Alex has been very excited in the lead up and very content in the wake of the event, for us it’s been overwhelming to see the support and love coming in for our little hero.

Thank you!