Johanna Roach Award

“On 21st June 1991, my 10-year-old sister, Johanna Roach, was diagnosed with a rare form of childhood soft tissue cancer called rhabdomysarcoma. I was in Year 11 at Loreto at that time and what started out as a regular day to begin the mid-year school holidays turned out to be one that changed our family forever and began a three-year journey for Jo and all of those close to her.

After 18 months of treatment including chemotherapy, radiotherapy, a bone marrow transplant and a 16-hour operation on her head, Jo started in Year 7 at Loreto in 1993, the year after I completed Year 12. My sister Mary was then in Year 11 (’94) and my younger sister Dominique yet to come (’02).

The inspiring thing about Jo was that despite all the treatment and pain she endured she never lost the ability to smile and think optimistically about the future, however,  Jo sadly passed away on 20th June 1994 while in Year 8. 

So many people at Loreto were an incredible support to our family during Jo’s illness and after her death and it was greatly appreciated when Jo’s Year 12 cohort initiated an award in her name which is presented each year at the Year 7-11 Awards Ceremony to a Year 8 student whose ‘involvement, kindness and creative flair enriches the school community’. Jo always engaged in as many aspects of school life as possible and particularly loved being artistic and creative. There is also a birdbath in the garden in Joh’s memory.

Although our family lost touch with Loreto after Dom finished school, it was through a chance encounter with School Counsellor Cathy Walbank in 2014 that we reconnected with the school and Jo’s award. It has been a pleasure for our Mum, Mary, Dom and myself to be invited back to Loreto at the end of each year to present Jo’s award to a special Year 8 student who shares the traits, values and passions that we’ll always so closely link to our beautiful Jo, ensuring the continuation of her spirit in the Loreto community to which we’re so grateful.” 

Bernadette Chang (Roach, ’92)