The RCD Foundation CEO

Interview with Liz Dawes

The When Liz Dawes was caring for her 17-year-old son Robert Connor during his brain cancer battle she received an anonymous delivery of flowers with a note attached.

It read: Be fearless.

This random act of kindness infused her with the strength she needed to endure her boy’s passing and the note remains pinned to her bulletin board today.

September 13 marks the 3rd annual Connor’s Run staged in her son’s honour.

It’s Australia’s largest event for paediatric brain cancer and has raised a phenomenal one million dollars for research!

Delighted to introduce Liz:

Martine Harte: Liz you stand as someone who managed to direct their energy into something so positive despite your own grief.

LIz Dawes: I think people just have to do what’s right for them, whatever is right is right. You know?

Some people do want to take action; others don’t as they are working or have other children to raise and that’s ok. It’s a journey.

I knew when Connor died I would, never, ever, ever stop grieving for him, so I don’t even try.

Martine: So let’s make this positive. How did you navigate your grief into raising so much money for vital research?

Liz: One day when Connor was unwell I said to him, “why don’t we start a foundation? Because you are really inspiring to people. He was lying on our sofa and he joked, “I don’t feel very inspiring… (laughs) He was very funny.

That’s when the seed was planted.

After he passed away a teacher at Brighton Grammar urged us to run an event as we had huge community support. It all happened when Connor was unwell and I’m so, so glad that he knew about it. Connor actually ran from our home in Sandringham to the Mercantile Boatsheds, two months before his upcoming diagnosis to train for the upcoming rowing season.


Somebody told me to call David Hanson who owns Supersprint although I didn’t know him personally I heard they did triathlons at the beach. I call him on the Friday after the funeral 3.30pm in the afternoon, I thought that way I could just leave a message.

He actually answered the phone – which is now a running joke because David never answers the phone – and said he would help.

He gave me these tips:

1/ Don’t hold the Connor’s Run on roads, it will have to be on the path along the beach.

2/ Call three local councils and get their approval.

So I sat with a friend, dialled information, this was how it was (laughs) and one by one they all had that Sunday available.

David’s name definitely helped us.


Our kids’ baby sitter Marek Wolski lived next door and is incredibly talented with marketing. He is now 30 and lives in Sweden yet does everything pro bono. Sharp marketing and social media has definitely helped.


I’m never going to cure brain cancer because I’m certainly not at that intellectual level. I know the two main researchers, I know roughly what they’re working on, I know they’re the best because that’s universal agreement, so we’re funding them. One’s in Canada and one is from Cambridge.

I’m meeting all these brilliant, brilliant people and am so grateful they’ve chosen this as their life’s work.


People are amazingly generous and often will help if asked but be mindful people are also busy with their own lives.

Ask what is reasonable in terms of their time, energy and talent.

Let them know they’re valued and appreciated. We have created our entire charity with pro bono, volunteer effort from our Board of Directors, to our day-to-day operations.

If people say no, then respect that too and don’t take it personally.


Connor has beautiful friends; they were getting their licence, going to their formal, studying.

Even six months earlier Connor would’ve been right in the thick of it. I thought I could either be envious – and a lot of these boys’ mums are my closest friends also which often happens. I thought no, I’m going to have a paradigm shift in my mind and be happy for these boys.

That’s exactly what I did, I love them, we are in their life. They’ve lost their closest friend, that’s a tragedy for them so I’m not going to make this worse by being the parent they’re scared to see.


Loving Connor and taking caring of him was the most natural thing and if that was going to be my life I was ok with it.

When the doctors delivered the final news I had this feeling inside that yes Connor’s physical self is going to die, but I’m not going to let his spirit die.

I feel so much conviction for this.


If you’d love to donate and would like more information  tap, tap here, brain cancer is one of the most common types of childhood cancer.


If you’re competing and wanted to read my chat with endurance runner Samantha Gash zip over here

If you want to hear this engaging woman at your workplace or event mail us:

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Thank you Liz and best of luck to all of you competing, hope Liz’s story inspires you to face your fears. Martine.

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Martine Harte is founder of Engaging Women, a platform for social good.
She is a dedicated voice in the advancement of women & girls. Contact

Learn more about her here and connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram.


Posted in Interviews Engaging Women.