Kevin Larkins, the Community Engagement Manager for the Peace of Mind Foundation (POM), a local Geelong Charity started by a good friend of our Club, Bec Piccone and her brother, Clint following the death of Clint’s young wife from Brain Cancer, spoke at our meeting on August 11th.
The Vision of POM is that every family in Australia impacted by Brain Cancer will get the support they need. Bec's experience with her sister-in-law led Bec and her brother to the position that they had to do something about the little known fact that brain cancer has a huge impact on peoples’ lives and that so little support was provided for them. It has the lowest survival rate except for pancreatic cancer of all cancers - only one in four survive beyond 18 months (after being diagnosed at Level 4). Bec and her brother realised that while research is the best way to improve the survival rate this will be slow and requires lots of money and that there was a huge role and benefit in being able to offer support for sufferers following diagnosis and during their journey with brain cancer. 
Kevin has recently moved into his role at POM and in Bec’s words he is an incredible asset on the POM Team who brings with him a significant record of employment in the Health and Welfare Sector at Senior Executive Level in Victoria, Northern Territory and Western Australia. 
Kevin training as  a priest was focussed on the preparation to deliver a message that was loud and clear for his audience. They were taught that if you are going to preach the message there are four pillars of preaching;
The bedrock of all preaching is the Greek word “Koinonia” which means fellowship but which Kevin took to mean relationship or connection.
The next pillar “Diaconia” or service which is very familiar to all Rotarians.
The third pillar was the Greek word for message, and
The final capping is eucharist, celebration or communion.
This has underpinned all Kevin has done in his work with Leadership and Teams. It is important to recognise that for a message to be successfully delivered, there must first come a relationship or connection in order for service and celebration or communion to result.
The POM vision became, and still is, that every family in Australia impacted by brain cancer will get the support they need. The diagnosis cannot be changed. It is a given but the prognosis is what is not a given. It is determined a lot by people’s attitude and the support they receive through the establishment of relationship and connection with community. Kevin got involved after his eldest daughter was diagnosed with three non-malignant meningiomas (brain tumours that can recur) that needed treatment very early in her newborn baby’s life. This had a tremendous impact on the early nurturing of the baby, on Kevin’s daughter and on the whole family. Through the Andrew Love Centre in Geelong, she discovered that a support group called the Peace of Mind Foundation existed and attended one of the amazing retreats run by them. She met a whole host of people and came away (as well as feeling there were just so many people worse off than herself) with the impression that “Bec Piccone is doing something amazing and Dad you ought to get involved”. Not being one to deny his children, Kevin did get involved and discovered in POM what he had always known – the power of connection. The diagnosis can’t be changed but with Bec’s leadership and the power of the people themselves the space between the diagnosis and the response to it can be unlocked. The confronting diagnosis requires the individual to confront this space following diagnosis. Bec, in her wisdom, recognised that providing the environment at the retreat created a place in which people can feel supported in the period while they are discovering how they can personally confront the prognosis for what could seem to a certain extent the inevitable. There is a need and the retreats continue to provide this opportunity for individuals to learn to have courage to take control of their circumstances. At one of the retreats, Kevin met the Marketing Manager of Westfield who had come with a friend. Kevin recognised this connection and challenged her with the vision that she could engage Westfield in helping to hold a great event in Geelong every year. “Challenge Brain Cancer” was born. Covid interrupted but now ten stores have been signed up and they are seeking 50 teams to participate in the “great race” on October 2nd this year. Participants in teams of 4 will follow the clues at these ten stores to complete the course and ultimately win the race. Each team member commits to raising $250 ($1000 per team). Kevin then challenged our Club to participate with at least one team on the day.
A big research organisation in Sydney, “Cure Brain Cancer” has come on board recognising that whilst the main aim is to find a cure, the important thing in the meantime is to support people along the way. This aligns well with the Peace of Mind Vision. With this greater community involvement, the retreats can continue and further opportunities developed to fulfil the POM Mission (which is to give support, courage and community to brain cancer patients, their carers, family and loved ones). The vision for more support for people on the brain cancer journey includes having the funding to provide additional support workers such as the one person they have at the moment, Jonathan, who goes around this area supporting people to help sufferers navigate the Health System which can be daunting and confusing. This is all in the future but funding will be the key so that the Peace of the Mind Foundation can continue in its determination to engage community, build connections and offer support to sufferers. Kevin concluded by again challenging us to participate in the Challenge and left us with the message that hope is a key ingredient in people being able to take control of the circumstances they find themselves in. Citing Viktor Frankl’s book “Man’s Search for Meaning”, Kevin related that Viktor was interred in a Nazi Concentration Camp which was so demoralising that all hope could be taken away. Viktor writes about his discovery that the Nazi’s could take away everything and control all aspects of his life day and night but they could not take away the attitude of hope that he took to his circumstances. That is entirely in the power of the individual. This can be applied to any circumstances that seem intolerable, hopeless or inevitable. This resonates in the work of the Peace of Mind Foundation. We see this transformation at the end of every retreat through the connection we provide, the community we create and the courage that is engendered. Althea thanked Kevin for his inspirational address and said we look forward to continuing our connection with the Peace of Mind Foundation, with the common purpose of creating connections and building community. Unfortunately there was not time for questions but Kevin thanked us for the opportunity to speak this morning. President Ben closed the meeting, thanking Kevin for his inspirational message to us.