At the entrance to Little Einsteins early childhood centre on the outskirts of Cambridge there’s a large, wooden stall laden with fruit and vegetables, free-range eggs and homemade jam. A bright red piggy bank stands guard, collecting koha in exchange for produce from Little Einsteins’ garden.
Over the next few weeks the proceeds from the stall will go towards the centre’s Relay For Life team as they fundraise for the Cancer Society.
Little Einsteins are regular supporters of Relay For Life. On Saturday 30 March, a team of 12 current and former teachers from the centre will lace up their walking shoes once again and hit the track at the Grandstand, Claudelands Events Centre.
Team captain Dan Podjursky says being part of Relay For Life not only allows them to give back to the community, it’s a cause that’s close to their hearts with most of the people who work at Little Einsteins having been impacted by cancer in some way.
“Everybody knows somebody who has gone through cancer. Being part of Relay For Life is about supporting those on their journey. It really touches every person. Obviously, it’s not a nice thing to bring us together - but it’s something we can all unite against.”
Founder and director of Little Einsteins, Jo Maddison, agrees.
“I have had two grandmothers die of cancer, and three uncles. My Dad has had surgery for it - and been cleared. One of my friends conquered it; one of them has not. She won her first battle, but the second has beaten her and she is having her life prolonged by drugs so that she can spend as much of it with a brand-new granddaughter as she can.
“Two of the teachers I have worked with have fought it and won. It’s incredible when you list it like this, how prevalent it is and how incredibly frightening.
“Raising money to hopefully find a cure for this so it doesn’t cut mine or any of my precious friends’ and family members’ lives short is a priority.”
When Little Einsteins opened 10 years ago, the centre was surrounded by farmland. Now, the Waikato Expressway lies a short distance to the north and housing subdivisions are cropping up on either side.
Despite the changing landscape, the centre retains its philosophy of nature-based learning – the children explore the large adjacent paddock, and mind the animals and vegetable gardens.
This hands-on learning extends to making the jars of plum jam which are on sale in the stall outside.
As Relay For Life draws near, the Little Einsteins team will invite families from the centre to visit them on the day and show their support. The children will be able to join the team on the track too.
Dan says it’s not hard to get support from the community for their team.
“It’s just amazing. People are always so generous when it comes to raising money because it’s an incredible cause and everyone knows someone who has been touched by cancer.”
While the team’s fundraising efforts are well underway, Jo and Dan confess they’re yet to start training for the event. Even so, Jo has set an ambitious goal - to walk 30 kilometres on the day.
She’s worked out she’ll need to walk every second hour of the 12-hour-long event to hit the target.
For Dan, the highlight of Relay For Life is the community spirit and festival-like atmosphere.
“It’s a chance to meet new people and rekindle relationships with people you know. And you’re coming together as a community and doing it for the same reasons, which is nice.”
CAPTION: Hard at work: Dax and Millie from Little Einsteins make jam to fundraise for Relay For Life.