Meet Sarah Holzworth – An Everyday Hero

Cancer is a very morbid topic to think about but it affects millions of Australians each year.  Chances are you have known someone, or someone close to you has lost their battle with the disease. Cancer is diverse and indiscriminate. My own father was diagnosed with cancer when I was 14 and he died in 2011 after enduring a 10-year battle.

I know I am going to sound really gross but get tested for bowel cancer – my son was 27 when he was diagnosed.” – Sarah Holzworth

I came across Sarah Holzworth on the North Lakes Community Watch Facebook page with her posts about #Drive4Chris and how she was sitting in Kallangur Fair Shopping Centre raising money for the Cancer Council.

Sarah (60) is the mother of three sons, Steve (37) Michael (34) and Chris (in the photo below, right) who would be celebrating his 32 birthday this year. Chris Holzworth died in 2015 at the age of 29 from bowel cancer that later metastasised into his lungs.

Chris was a gentle spirit, an IT professional and as his mum affectionately describes him a “computer geek, always tinkering around with computers and engines and always camping in remote locations.” This curiosity, technical aptitude and sense of adventure led him into the world of rally driving. 

One day in 2012 Chris stumbled upon the Shitbox Rally – a rally for drivers of cars less than $1000 in value, rallying up the troops to rev across Australia raising money for the Cancer Council. When Chris joined in 2013 and had his first rally (from Adelaide via Uluru to Perth), he was unaware that the Cancer Council would play a major role in his life not long after. The Shitbox Rally was started in 2011 by James Freeman who lost both of his parents to cancer 12 months apart. Since 2011, the rally has raised in total over $14,000,000 to help fund cancer curing research. 

Chris’s car was a Russian Lada Niva a car Sarah said “could be fixed with nothing more than a hammer and lump of wood.” Chris along with his mate Brodie Carter formed the team “Cartworth” a hybrid of their surnames. Over five days the pair drove from Adelaide to Uluru and raised $4000 for the Cancer Council – a prerequisite for the rally.

Their first rally was in May 2013 and in December 2013, Chris was diagnosed with Cancer. Not wanting sympathy or pity from others, Chris kept his illness to himself so he could continue doing what he loved – rally diving. In 2014 Chris formed the team Dafuq a play on the swear word “as Chris had a wicked sense of humour” Sarah said, but it also stood for “Donors and Families United Queensland” so he could continue driving and raising money for the Cancer Council.

When Chris passed away, he had a service in Albany Creek and hundreds of people attended. “He was well loved by everyone – truly a gentle and loving soul. I never knew the level of impact my son had on so many people.” Said Sarah as she wiped away tears. I have to admit; it was hard not to cry when I heard about the kindness of people in times of tragedy.

This is the most heartbreaking factor and Sarah is an amazing and strong woman who has turned a personal tragedy around in a way that she can honour the memory of her dear son Chris and help families who are going through the exact same thing. I am truly honoured to have met her.

After Chris’s passing, Sarah now drives in the Shitbox Rally with her son Michael (in the photo with Sarah) who I also had the pleasure of meeting.

As a child, you expect your parents to die at some point in your life, but as a parent, you never expect to bury your child.

Michael had his life saved by Chris as his diagnosis led to the early detection of polyps on Michael’s bowel. If left undetected, it would have turned into cancer. Michael had surgery in 2016 to have the polyps removed.

Sarah and Chris were going to drive in the Mystery Box Rally (a rally where you find out on the day the type of car you will be driving and the route) in 2015 but Chris passed away on October 12, just a couple of months before the rally. Wanting to honour her son and carry out his wishes, Sarah and Michael drove in 2015 and again in 2016 and 2017 and will be driving this year in two weeks’ time from Brisbane to Darwin on May 19-25. In 2016 Michael and Sarah raised $11,700 for the Cancer Council. This year may be Michael’s last as being a husband and father of two teenage children means he needs to be a bit more risk adverse.

Sarah is selling Raffle tickets until next Thursday 10 May at Kallangur Fair (just outside Woolworths) and the raffle will be drawn at 4.30pm on Friday 11 May just in time for Mother’s day.

It looks like Chris’s sense of adventure and risk taking rubbed off on his mother as Sarah not only is a rally driver, but an avid cyclist. Sarah bikes across Queensland on the “Ride Away From Everyday” a 450km journey of 900 riders who set out to escape from the daily grind. The event is run by Cycle Queensland and Tourism Queensland. This year Sarah is cycling from the Daintree Rainforest to Cairns over nine days.

What’s more, it seems that the whole family has a history of adventure and heroism.

“When the boys were growing up John my husband and their father was heavily involved in SES activities….he was on the helicopter rescue crew and toured QLD training SES volunteer groups. He even ran a rescue course in Papua New Guinea for the mines personnel up there. He was often away on disaster operations (floods, cyclones) perhaps this is where the boys got their adventurous streak. John has always been the anchor for this family, not only whilst Chris was ill, especially then but even more so since .” John is now retired but he worked at the SES part of Emergency Management Queensland (EMQ). Both Chris and John worked for EMQ and they were incredibly supportive when Chris was undertaking chemotherapy while employed.”

 “Chris rarely took any days off. He was a hard worker and worked mostly in between his chemotherapy however couldn’t continue after his second round. Chris was always willing to lend a hand to his coworkers and would travel across Queensland to repair computers in ambulance and fire stations when floods and cyclones would go through. ” Sarah Said.

Sarah previously worked in finance so rally driving and long distance cycling are a big change for her. A shy and reclusive type but with an adventurous streak, Sarah confessed that she finds it difficult getting out there talking to people. “I have to admit, the first day I was here at Kallangur Fair, I was shaking and so nervous about speaking to people.”

Sarah also knits beanies for men undergoing chemotherapy and she donates them to Holy Spirit. “I know being bald is the in thing for men but some are very self-conscious.” She said.

In every sense of the word Sarah is an everyday hero, a local mum doing extraordinary things – Moreton Bay is a better place because of people like her.

Fo more information on the Shitbox Rally click here

Please like and donate to #Drive4Chris and Team Dafuq here on their Facebook page

Thank you to Steven Miles MP  for donating a raffle prize to #Drive4Chris

Check these inspiring photos:

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