Dr June Canavan has left a lasting legacy of helping others here on the Sunshine Coast.
Dr June Canavan has left a lasting legacy of helping others here on the Sunshine Coast.

Late doctor’s legacy inspires youngers’ adventures

Eleven years after inspirational Sunshine Coast doctor June Canavan was killed in a plane crash while on the way to conquer the Kokoda Track, her legacy of living life to the fullest has never faded.

Her memory lives on through the June Canavan Foundation which is now supporting the adventurous spirit of Sunshine Butterflies youngsters living with disability, helping them enjoy the freedom of stand up paddleboarding.

Thinking of others was always close to the heart of Dr Canavan, 59, who had set out to raise $50,000 for School of St Jude’s in Tanzania by completing five mountain challenges.

Always the over-achiever, Dr Canavan completed the first three of her “Klocking up the Ks” peaks and raised $220,000 before she and a friend, Keith Gracie, were among 13 people killed on August 11, 2009 in the New Guinea crash.

The Sunshine Butterflies crew celebrate a new sporting lease on life with the June Canavan Foundation.
The Sunshine Butterflies crew celebrate a new sporting lease on life with the June Canavan Foundation.

Some years before, Dr Canavan had dedicated herself to obtaining her bronze medallion on the Coast in surf lifesaving while still recovering from major heart surgery.

Her own inspiration for that feat was the death of her good friend Dr Paul McCarthy, who died in the in the Sea King helicopter crash on Nias, Indonesia. The Air Force squadron leader was on his way to way to help earthquake victims.

This national champion surf boat rower who famously came second in a race across the Atlantic Ocean, studied under Dr Canavan who dedicated her bronze to his memory.

“Paul was never afraid to push himself to the utmost to see what he could achieve, he was an amazing person,” Dr Canavan said at the time.

“I just wanted to do something with myself, something worthwhile and significant as a tribute to him.

Air force Squadron Leader and an inspiration for Dr Canavan is Dr Paul McCarthy.
Air force Squadron Leader and an inspiration for Dr Canavan is Dr Paul McCarthy.

“I needed a goal because I was a bit fearful that I might take Paul’s death hard because he was a very close friend and I was involved with all the arrangements for the funeral.”

Dr Canavan also sponsored a bursary to help and inspire sports medicine students at the University of the Sunshine Coast.

Her response at the time was: “There is so much good to be done, so many people to help. If there is a lesson it’s that life is such a precious commodity and you can’t waste it.”

Now fast forward to 2020 as Sunshine Butterflies partners with her foundation which is bringing new sporting equipment to Sunshine Butterflies’ All Sports program.

This has enabled the Cooroibah service to buy four SUPs to increase the motor skills, balance and have a tonne of fun while being fit and active.

“June Canavan (Foundation) have been wonderful in supporting us with the help of Kona Boards who assisted us in choosing the perfect SUPS for our members,” Sunshine Butterflies’ community development officer Lucy Mills said.

“People living with a disability regularly do not get the same opportunities as others, often struggling to access sporting equipment and the support required to participate,” she said.

Foundation board member Maureen Cummings said the donation was aligned with Dr Canavan’s interest in sport and her commitment to the health and wellbeing of Sunshine Coast people.

“We are sure their members will have a lot of fun using them,” Ms Cummings said.