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Kickin' Cancer at the E.J. Whitten Grand Final Legends Lunch 2023

By Bree Pagliuso|

It started with these simple questions: How can we make more people aware of prostate cancer, and how do we make it easier for men, especially those without private health insurance, to get the care they need? Believing in the cause and wanting to make a difference, the Australian Prostate Centre and the EJ Whitten Foundation joined to tackle prostate cancer together, and 23 years ago, the EJ Whitten Grand Final Lunch was born.

Initiated by Bill Guest, a prominent Melbourne businessman, and Professor Tony Costello, a Club Melbourne Ambassador and former head of Urology at Royal Melbourne, the EJ Whitten Grand Final Lunch owes its success to the longstanding relationship and dedicated efforts of these two champions whose collaborative spirit play a crucial role in making the event a triumph.

Thanks to Tracey Crosling, Events Manager from Rule Prostate Cancer, we have incredible insight into how the 2023 luncheon came together.

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A snapshot of the event

A mix between a gala, live entertainment and a community-inspired event, the EJ Whitten Grand Final Lunch filled with fun giveaways, surprise visits from famous Australian rules figures (real and fake!), incredible performances from singing legends and flowing food and beverages.

"The event results from the hard work of our corporate partners, dedicated ambassadors, and families who come and share their inspiring stories. We want to make the event even bigger and welcome 1,000 attendees in the years to come. Thanks to a partnership with MCEC, the event continues to make a difference. This event isn't just any event; It's a strong driver of positive change, uniting people and groups to fight prostate cancer, spread awareness, and bring happiness and support to families dealing with this illness." says Tracey.

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Footy matters

Ask any Victorian about our state's favourite sport, and the immediate answer is AFL. This much-loved game, typically dominated by men, provides a perfect opportunity to spread awareness about men's health.

Driven by the guests' love for football and a desire to keep things fresh, the luncheon has seen significant changes recently. Now, it features two football panels, top-notch visuals, performances by well-known Australian talents, and creative fundraising activities like the lively "Run for Real."

Tracey added, "We've always included a football panel element in our event, but we've significantly improved that area. Now, we have not just one but two football panels, aligning with the event's purpose of discussing the grand final. We've consistently received positive feedback about the lunch, and our focus has been on enhancing the guest experience to make it a must-attend event year after year."

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Working with MCEC

The planning process began a year in advance, with the intensity escalating around six months before the event. Including a transition to Plenary from the Melbourne Room and concurrently coordinating with North Melbourne's Saturday breakfast event, the event organisers relied heavily on MCEC to make the event execution seamless.

"There is always care in the event design, and accessibility is a key consideration in event planning. From our perspective, MCEC makes sure that all our guests, regardless of their challenges, can fully participate in the event; our audience includes corporate partners, people associated with the EJ Whitten Foundation and Australian Prostate Centre, ambassadors, and the general public." Says Tracey.

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Setting the scene

The space had a festive vibe with a stage at the centre. The stage was set for a panel discussion, introducing the grand final cup and live performances.

Working closely with the MCEC AV team to make the show more exciting, they focused on improving the visuals on the screens. They strategically placed multiple screens around the space to make the event look even better.

Tracey added, "Bringing in top Australian talent for entertainment was a priority. We also had a unique fundraising element called 'Run for Real,' where former UMX footballer Campbell Brown ran on a treadmill throughout the event. It was a bit of a crazy idea, but approaching Campbell, who was up for the challenge, made the event even more remarkable."

Food matters

The team held a menu-tasting session six weeks before the event with Peter Haycroft, Executive Chef at MCEC.

"Instead of the usual cheese and fruit platters, we introduced miniature desserts and handed guests mini cones as they left. It was a great choice, and we received fantastic feedback. It really reminded me how vital food is to any event. You can have everything else in place – the production, the entertainment, and all the day's happenings – but without good food and impeccable service, it can all go to waste." says Tracey.

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Event impact
  • This year, the event raised $270,000 for a clinic in North Melbourne.

  • With sustainability in mind , the event organisers employed QR codes instead of physical raffle tickets.

  • The event worked with the Victorian Government on funding elements and to raise funds for the Peter Burnett Wellness Centre.

  • The goal for the event is to reach 1000 attendees next year!

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Highlights
  • Double the fun with not one but two football panels to boost the guest experience!

  • Guests were entertained by the incredible Australian talent Kate Soprano. They enjoyed a surprise visit from the fictional Aussie rules football player "Strauchanie," brought to life by the hilarious Peter Helliar.

  • An adrenaline-pumping moment with the new fundraising feature, "Run for Real," where former AFL player Campbell Brown hit the treadmill during the event.

  • Felt the love and support from big names like Treasury Wines, the Australian Hotels Association, and Kay & Burton.

  • A little extra help from MCEC, who provided sponsorship and support in food, venue hire, and audio-visual services.

  • A heartfelt tribute through the emotional screening of the Nick Schildberger video.

  • An awe-inspiring speech from TED Whitten left attendees inspired and reflecting on this unforgettable experience.

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"MCEC has been incredibly supportive of our event in various ways beyond just providing the venue. Given the competitive nature of Grand Final week, we strive to keep ticket prices reasonable. This support from MCEC has been instrumental in achieving that goal. Every dollar saved on food and beverage expenses supports the clinic in North Melbourne, providing crucial assistance. This is especially important for us as a not-for-profit organisation." - Tracey Crosling, Events Manager from Rule Prostate Cancer.

Partner with MCEC to create unforgettable events that make a positive impact. Let's make every moment count together!