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Strong Foundations: HMRI Foundation duo shines

Dec 30 2022

Susan Michilis is a successful promotions specialist with a glass-half-full attitude and a bubbly personality to match. Susan has devoted more than five years to the HMRI Foundation events committee, stepping up to the role of chair in 2019.

Amy-Lea Pettigrew is a director of the family business, Pettigrew Funerals, and a softly spoken force of nature. A talented marketer and graphic designer, Amy has volunteered her expertise to the HMRI Foundation for the last three years.

When Susan and Amy-Lea met through the HMRI Foundation their mutual creative drive and energy forged a partnership that delivered a glittering string of events – delighting Hunter locals while bringing in much-needed funds for medical research.

“I just love working with Amy-Lea!” Susan exclaims. "We’re not afraid to challenge each other and produce results. But it’s not just a working relationship. We have become good friends too.”

Even two years of false starts and stops due to COVID-19 couldn’t dampen the women’s spirits. If anything, it drove them even harder to succeed. In under 12 months, the HMRI Foundation delivered events that raised a record $300,000 to support research at HMRI.

Both Susan and Amy-Lea became involved with the HMRI Foundation through their commitment to hard work, their caring natures and their personal experiences of illness and loss.

Amy-Lea found that working for charities supported her through the journey of losing her dad.

“Volunteering was the one thing that got me through the last six years,” she explains. “In the first few years I struggled immensely, but my work with charities as a businesswoman helped me focus my grief.”

“Volunteering was also hugely important to dad. It just felt like where I needed to put my energy. Hopefully one day, I’ll be able to volunteer full-time for charities.”

Susan became interested in supporting medical research as she has had first-hand experience with illness and disease. At the age of 25, Susan was diagnosed with cancer and her immediate family have experienced stroke, skin cancer and retinitis pigmentosa. Susan recently lost her mother to dementia-related illness and her father to brain cancer.

“I love how HMRI caters to much more than just one area of research,” says Susan. “Being involved with HMRI allows me to help with all the areas that have touched my family, my friends and my community.”

However, it’s the dedication of the HMRI researchers that motivates the women to go that extra mile.

“HMRI might be large,’ says Amy-Lea, “but it is still such an incredible community of researchers with real passion and drive. When I did my first tour of the building, I left feeling incredibly inspired! The money can help so many families and their loved ones.”

“You see the results and you know that every dollar goes to hopefully finding a cure,” explains Susan. “The smallest amount can go a long way. Everyone in the Hunter owns HMRI. It is amazing that it’s here for everyone’s benefit. Imagine! We have all these researchers working for all of us, right here on our doorstep! We’re so incredibly lucky.”

The HMRI Foundation’s big year...

  • HMRI Conversations Art Exhibition & Auction and Sunday Long Lunch: Raised $76K
  • HMRI Golf Day: Raised $36.5K
  • HMRI Reunion Ball: Raised almost $200K

Total of $312.5K a record result!