Gloucester's Sandrien Laurie hosts Biggest Morning Tea in honour of her sister in the Netherlands

Sandrien Laurie points out the photo collage of her sister, while her neighbour Lea MacKinnon sells some of the beautiful cakes and slices. Photo supplied
Sandrien Laurie points out the photo collage of her sister, while her neighbour Lea MacKinnon sells some of the beautiful cakes and slices. Photo supplied

When Sandrien Laurie got the call that her sister, Evelien was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer, she wanted to get on a plane to the Netherlands. Sandrien is the only member of her family living in Australia, and in times like these, under normal circumstances, she'd simply fly home.

Pre-COVID, Sandrien would visit her family every year, and like many others, had plans to travel last year. But the combination of restrictions between Australia and the Netherlands has made the option for a quick flight home near impossible.

"When she rang me, I wanted to go. I wanted to be there to help out with her young family. Just help with the everyday stuff," Sandrien said. "The situation in The Netherlands is still out of control and visitors from outside the EU are not welcome. Also leaving Australia and my family here, behind, not knowing when being able to come back makes this a difficult situation."

Determined to not let the circumstances get to her, Sandrien looked for other ways to support her sister until she's able to be there in person.

"It's amazing what you can do. I talk to her on a daily basis. I send quotes. I made a painting of her favourite horse and sent it to her," she explained.

Sandrien made a collage of photos of her sister Evelien with her young family to place at the Biggest Morning Tea.

Sandrien made a collage of photos of her sister Evelien with her young family to place at the Biggest Morning Tea.

The chemo treatments have been taking a toll on Evelien and Sandrien keeps looking for ways to lift her spirits. When she came across the advertisement for hosting a Biggest Morning Tea, Sandrien thought it would be a good way to help others going through their own cancer journey and signed up.

"She was really happy," Sandrien said about telling her sister of the plan.

On Saturday June 5, Sandrien hosted a Biggest Morning Tea on the sidelines of the Gloucester Soccer Club's competition while her young sons played.

"There are 175 kids playing soccer and I was looking for a place to meet a lot of people," Sandrien said.

Her plan was to host a fundraiser that made an impact and she set a goal of selling 1000 pieces of morning tea at $3 a piece to raise $3000. After getting stuck into the baking process, she realised that the task may be too great for just one person, so she reached out to her friend network for a little help.

"I got a great response. I had a few big baking days with my neighbour and friend, Lea MacKinnon. Sometimes up to 12 hours in the kitchen," Sandrien smiled. "Our backs were hurting and we were well and truly over it but all we had to think of was the suffering cancer patients are going through and compared to that, this was nothing. And that picked us up again to keep going."

Sandrien decided to pre-sell a few items and managed to raise $900 before the big event, plus she asked the local businesses for raffles prizes.

A box of goodies for sale at Sandrien's Biggest Morning Tea.

A box of goodies for sale at Sandrien's Biggest Morning Tea.

When she asked the Gloucester Soccer Club for permission to set up a few table to sell her goods, not only did the club say 'yes' it also donated its canteen profit of $590.

To make things simple, Sandrien and her band of helpers decided to sell a boxes of goodies for $20 each.

"On the day help came from all directions. Donations were rolling in fast and within a few hours we only had 10 boxes left," Sandrien said.

Determined to sell out, Sandrien and Lea visited the Gloucester Bowling Club and the Gloucester Rugby League's home game, while Anneeta Blanch pitched in and helped sell raffle tickets during the afternoon.

Seeing the community coming together was wonderful and the absolute key to this successful day.

Sandrien Laurie

"We sold our last box of cakes and raised $4690.25, which was rounded up to $5000 with a generous donation from Gloucester Landscapes.

"Seeing the community coming together was wonderful and the absolute key to this successful day," she said.

Evelien was the first person on the phone helping to share in the huge success of the day. Having only recently completed her fifth chemo treatment of 16, and with an operation and radiation still to come, Sandrien is still holding out hope she'll be able to fly over to see Evelien in person this Christmas.