Include A Charity Week

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Family’s cerebral approach to gifts in wills

When Marelle Thornton AO and her husband Stewart were writing their wills, they didn’t hesitate to put part of their estate aside for Cerebral Palsy Alliance (CPA), the organisation Marelle has volunteered with since the 1980s.

For the Thorntons, the decision to leave a gift in their wills to CPA was deeply personal because their only daughter Katie was born with cerebral palsy, a condition marked by impaired muscle coordination and other disorders resulting from brain damage before, during or shortly after birth.

“Our decision to make a bequest to CPA was an easy one. Their guidance, generous support and professional assistance over 40 years to Katie have been key to her achieving huge physical, emotional and social gains we never dreamed possible,” said Marelle.

“We have also witnessed how CPA has worked hard for other families affected by the condition,” she added.

Marelle’s comments come on the eve of Include a Charity Week (10-16 September), which encourages people to include a charity in their will, after they provide for their loved ones.

Include a Charity Week is an important way to highlight the valuable work undertaken in the community by charitable organisations and to make known how a gift in one’s will can positively impact the lives of others in the future,” said Helen Merrick, Include a Charity Campaign Director.

Since Katie’s birth, Marelle Thornton has campaigned tirelessly for CPA, striving to improve support services, prevent cerebral palsy and find a cure. While working full-time as a teacher, she started volunteering as a CPA fundraiser and then accepted a position on their board, serving as president, chair and director from 1983-2014, and founding the CPA Research Foundation in 2005.

Globally, about 17 million people have cerebral palsy and about 34,000 Australians are living with the condition. It’s estimated a child is born with cerebral palsy every 15 hours in Australia.

The Thorntons’ charitable gifts to CPA are their way of continuing to support the organisation, its services and its research efforts beyond their lifetime.

“Our bequest will be an investment in families of the future who will need this remarkable organisation. We’re hopeful that the gift we leave will go some way in enabling CPA to expand knowledge about the causes of cerebral palsy, to find ways to prevent the condition, to minimise its impact and perhaps one day be part of finding a cure,” said Marelle.

And the bequest is set to become a real family affair as their daughter has now included a gift in her will to CPA.

“Katie just wants to show her appreciation of all they have done for her,” said Marelle.

 Just 7.4% leave a gift in their will

Marelle, Stewart and Katie are among only 7.4 per cent of Australians who have left a gift in their will to charity.

Include a Charity Week aims to lift that 7.4 per cent figure by a few percentage points so that more money can flow to the charitable sector and provide much-needed funds for its vital work.

There are close to 100 charities supporting this year’s campaign, including Cerebral Palsy Alliance, World Vision Australia, Lost Dogs Home, Starlight Children’s Foundation, Burnet Institute, Stroke Foundation, Legacy Australia, UNICEF, Berry Street and Barnardos Australia.

Since Include a Charity began in 2007, the group has witnessed encouraging signs that more people are interested in leaving a bequest. Their most recent survey found that 25% of Australians said they would like to leave a gift in their will, so this year the group is encouraging more solicitors and financial planners to ask their clients to consider it.

Campaign Director Helen Merrick says a myth persists that gifts in wills are only for the wealthy. “In reality, most gifts come from ordinary, hardworking Australians. Any gift can make a difference to the community a charity serves,” she said.

Include a Charity has a free checklist you can use to help you in the will-writing process. They also have a list of charities if you are considering a bequest. Want to know more? Visit




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