26 April 2024

Illawarra's police ball is back to raise funds and keep Bev Lawson's dream alive

| Jen White
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Two police officers and a woman sitting on a police bike.

At the University of Wollongong to launch the Illawarra Police Charity Ball are MCCI’s Allyson Pasoz, Supt John Klepczarek and Supt Donna McCarthy. Photo: NSW Police.

Back in 1985, a Wollongong police sergeant had an idea to organise a social event to bring together her colleagues and the wider community.

It was to be a fun night, but with a serious aim of raising money for local charities.

Sergeant Beverley Lawson achieved her goal, and started the Illawarra Police Charity Ball before she went on to become the state’s first female deputy commissioner.

Apart from a three-year break during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Illawarra has continued to host one of NSW’s longest running police balls.

It has raised more than $500,000 for Illawarra and South Coast charities, with the support of the community and businesses, including the Wollongong Hospital Children’s Ward, Lifeline South Coast, South Coast Disabled Surfers Association, Illawarra Cancer Carers, KidzWish and Orange Sky Laundry.

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The 2024 charity ball was launched on Monday (15 April) at the University of Wollongong’s Grand Hall, which will host the function on Friday 26 July.

Illawarra Police Charity Ball President Superintendent John Klepczarek said the event had become a mainstay on the Illawarra’s social calendar.

“We’re so excited to bring this much-loved event back,” he said.

“The charity ball is not just for police officers and their families but for the broader community.

“The event raises essential funds for charity organisations throughout the Illawarra and South Coast who, much like police, work hard to help the community in their time of need.”

The first charity ball at the Fraternity Club in August 1986 raised funds for the Bulli Hospital palliative care ward and the Wollongong Cancer Awareness Support Group.

Both causes were close to the heart of the then Sgt Lawson, who was a cancer survivor only six months away from remission.

Tables of people at dinner.

Hundreds attend a previous Illawarra Charity Ball. Photo: NSW Police.

At the time, she said the charities were chosen to coincide with Cancer Awareness Year, not because of her personal experience.

”When we were considering these options, I thought about people having to travel to Sydney daily for their treatment; I really don’t know how some of them get up there, or more specifically how they cope,” she said.

When she died of a stroke in January 1998, aged 57, she was Australia’s highest-ranking female police officer.

Supt Klepczarek said a lot of younger police officers had heard about the ball but hadn’t had a chance to attend one.

“People have been asking for the ball to come back, so the committee reformed and it’s full steam ahead,” he said.

The Multicultural Communities Council of Illawarra (MCCI) has been chosen to receive funds from this year’s event.

MCCI general manager for Refugee and Youth Support Allyson Pasoz said the organisation was thrilled to be chosen to receive the funding, which will be used for youth scholarships.

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She said MCCI started the scholarship scheme three years ago, and last week presented 10 young people with $1000 each.

“Most of the young people we support come from refugee backgrounds, or haven’t been in the country for very long and play crucial roles in supporting their family,” she said.

“It’s also important to recognise the role we play in the community, the role the police play in the community and how we can make things great for the community as a whole.”

Each year, a portion of the funds raised are also donated to NSW Police Legacy.

Legacy Chair Detective Superintendent Donna McCarthy said the funding would help the organisation to provide care and ongoing support to the families of police officers who had suffered a loss.

“NSW Police Legacy is delighted that the Illawarra Police Charity Ball is back in full swing – providing a great night out as well as providing much-needed funds for both Multicultural Communities Illawarra and NSW Police Legacy,” she said.

The NSW Police Band will provide entertainment, with various displays including traffic and highway patrol cars and motorbikes.

The 2024 Police Charity Ball is on Friday 26 July. Tickets, at $150 per person, are available now – click here for details.

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