Keeping angels on earth
Bayview’s Samantha Hollier-James is a charity powerhouse, founder, community leader and finalist for NSW Community Hero of the Year 2022.
The proud Northern Beaches mum is the founder of Tour de Cure, a charity established in 2007 that has raised a monumental $75 million for cancer research and funded over 570 related projects.
Tour De Cure, loosely translated from French to ‘journey of a cure’, was founded by Samantha and her two close friends, Geoff Coombes and Gary Bertwistle.
The organisation has directly saved lives by raising funds for seismic cancer research, and Samantha says that it’s all driven by a desire to ‘keep angels on earth’.
“Cancer stole my Nan - it stole her too soon from me. And so, before she passed, literally as she was passing, I promised to her then and there that I’d do something to keep loved ones together,” Samantha says.
The Pittwater local says she and her co-founders are an ‘unsuspecting trio’, but one thing is for certain - this motley crew is driven by a mutual, binding desire to support their community in any way they can.
Both Samantha and Geoff are born and bred Northern Beaches locals, and Samantha says that her local community of Bayview is what keeps her inspired, grounded and connected to her passion for making change.
“You ask anything of this community, and they give,” she says.
“They come to fundraisers, come to dinners. They're quite generous, not just with the wallet, but with time. People just want to know what it is you want help with, and they will help. They roll their sleeves up and just jump in helping.”
Samantha’s community-minded nature inspired her husband to secretly nominate her for 2022 NSW Community Hero of the Year - a few years after being named the 2018 finalist for NSW Australian of the Year.
“My husband nominated me and surprised me. It’s a feeling of honour, and it’s quite moving.”
Samantha says she is grateful for the opportunity the nomination presented to meet other like-minded women striving to make change in their community.
“Just incredible women - amazing, interesting, funny, eclectic, quiet achievers, technical experts, heartfelt angels, I've never experienced something like before,” she says.
Samantha’s passion for community-minded change also extends to the Peninsula’s youngest minds. She strives to educate and inform primary school children on both healthy living and cancer, and notes that raising awareness among this group is one of her greatest achievements.
“The very first day we started Tour de Cure, we rode through a school and one of our rider’s kids went there. The whole school got together and read a speech to us. We realised these kids had questions for us about what we were doing, what the researchers were doing,” she recalls.
Samantha says she is awestruck by the children’s hunger to learn about cancer. The stigmas, discomfort, and social mores around discussing cancer are what she aims to deconstruct through her work with local kids.
“There was a beautiful teacher at one of the schools we visited. She said to me, ‘Sam, it's not the visit that's the power of this thing that you do. It's the conversations you enable in my teacher's rooms and in the homes of those kids. That's the power of this.’”