From Cameraman to Founder of the Illawarra Convoy: A Journey

“I formed a committee of about 22 people… everyone was on board. It’s been successful since day dot.”-Marty Haynes. Photo credit: i98

As a sixteen-year-old fresh out of high school, Marty Haynes knew only one thing, his passion was to be a cameraman. Little did he know, he was going to achieve so much more.

 “I met a little boy called Ryan Scanners who had cancer and Ryan had a love of motorbikes and trucks. That’s how it all started.” A fond look comes over Marty Haynes face as he sits in his studio remembering that day over twenty years ago. Marty had no idea that his life was about to change when he rode through the streets of Canberra on the back of a horse. He had been challenged to ride with the NSW police from Queanbeyan to the radio station where he worked to raise money for the ACT Eden Monaro Cancer Support Group. “We rode these horses in peak hour and raised a big amount of money and that’s how I set up my love of helping,” he says. A kind-hearted man, he was always happy to help out when he could. Sitting atop his horse, riding through peak hour, his love for helping others flourished. That’s when he met little Ryan Scanners.

“When I met him, I thought, ‘What a great little kid,’ he was very funny. He had cancer to the nervous system in his back. I met him when he was about three and a half to four and his actual doctor said he wouldn’t pass seven. Well he died a week later—he turned seven on the 15th of January and then he died on the 21st so he did reach that battle, he did beat his doctor.” Marty’s voice shifts as a proud look comes over his face. “That’s how it all started for me.”

Marty began his career working as a cameraman for comedian, Graham Kennedy.

“He’s probably the best television presenter, funny man ever in Australia. He’s the king of tv” He says. When the opportunity arose, with some encouragement from Kennedy, Marty transitioned into radio, doing character voices for the breakfast show on 2Day FM. Before long, he had completely transitioned into radio, leaving behind his cameraman dreams. By the time he met Ryan he was ready to start a project of his own. “So, I sort of came out with a convoy idea and I sat down with some of the trucking firms and said, ‘Do you reckon it would work?’ And we did.”

The first convoy started in Canberra and ran for 30 to 40 kilometres back to Queanbeyan. But that was just the start. When Marty and his family moved to the Illawarra a few years later, Marty couldn’t get the phrase, ‘How can I help?’ out of his head. “Sometimes I’d sit on the top of Mount Ousley and I’d look at the trucks that went past and try to get the names and a bit of a feel for the place.” Before long, he was chatting to people, throwing the idea of a convoy out to see what they thought. The response was unanimously positive.

The first Illawarra convoy took place in 2005 with over 100 trucks participating. Marty had done a lot of preparation in the months leading up including approaching the head of the highway patrol in Wollongong and head of the ambulance. Finally, he visited Camp Quality to seek their involvement. “Everyone was on board. It’s been successful since day dot.” They hoped to raise 20 thousand dollars the first year. They made almost 48 thousand.

Success for Marty did not stop there. In the years following, the money raised climbed steadily.

In 2012, he also won the Illawarra Person of the Year award. Marty felt honoured and humbled, yet uncomfortable accepting the award, as he knew how many people it took to create and maintain such an event. He pauses in his reminiscing, “I didn’t feel comfortable with it because I thought, ‘There’s a lot of people behind convoys; it’s not just about Marty Haynes and it never has been.’ That’s why I took my name off the logo.”

Now, eight years later, the convoy has raised more than 16 million dollars. Marty has successfully brought the community together and helped bring joy to thousands of people’s faces. “A nicer guy you will not meet,” family friend, David McFarland, says. “A great family man who has built a reputation of being a champion for the underdog.”

With Covid-19 taking the world by surprise, the convoy has been cancelled. However, Marty and the team are not worried, but are focusing on what they can do to continue raising money. Merchandise sales are still going ahead and the team are determined to keep a positive spirit.

Looking back, Marty wouldn’t change a thing about his career journey.

“I would say to someone trying to get into the business, ‘Be yourself.’”

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