A big crowd of walkers and dogs has gathered to help people living with cancer thrive during the late Olivia Newton-John’s Walk for Wellness.
The event got underway on a sunny morning in Melbourne on Sunday, commemorating the 73-year-old performer who died in 2022 after battling breast cancer.
A crowd predicted to be in its thousands gathered at one of the Grease star’s favourite spots, Melbourne’s Alexandra Gardens, led by the singer’s daughter Chloe Lattanzi, her widower John Easterling and niece Tottie Goldsmith.
Walkers covered five kilometres around The Tan track from 9am, with “virtual” participants also joining in around the world.
Money raised will go towards wellness programs at the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness Centre (ONJ Centre) based at Austin Hospital in northeast Melbourne.
Penny Sanderson, the head of partnerships at the ONJ Centre and walk organiser, said the late celebrity had driven fundraising to encourage people living with cancer to thrive.
The turnout was incredible with music, the smell of BBQs in the air and dogs and people everywhere, she said.
“Probably one of the best days we’ve ever had,” she told AAP.
“Last year was a little subdued, because Olivia had just passed. But today is amazing, the sun is shining, people are out and about having a great time.”
The walk is into its 10th year and raises money for pioneering programs at the ONJ centre that were previously unavailable at hospitals.
“To be able to have the funds to pay for oncology acupuncture, oncology massage, for free, these things were not available, it wasn’t happening in hospitals. But it is now, thanks to Olivia’s vision,” she said.
Sponsorships and donations will help fund the centre’s evidence-based therapies that ease the side effects of cancer treatment and support people emotionally, spiritually and physically.
Ms Sanderson says many hospitals are now also creating wellness centres, finding they can offer cancer patients a greater level of care through focusing on living well with the disease.
“Olivia’s mission was that no one should have to pay for that. Cancer is not an easy process to go through. It’s easier if you can have people around you who know what that is like,” she said.
Dog yoga, craft activities and food vans provided entertainment at the event which will wrap up later with a concert featuring Goldsmith, singers Phil Burton, David Campbell and the stars of Grease: The Musical.
Newton-John, best known for playing Sandy in the 1978 smash hit Grease opposite John Travolta, died on August 8, 2022.
She battled breast cancer three times after first being diagnosed in 1992, leading her to create the Olivia Newton-John Foundation to fund cancer research.