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Forever Johnno – Twenty Years On

By Nicola Smith on August 21, 2020 in News

The Ward Boys. Photo: James Hutton

After facing delays due to the COVID-19 lockdown, the annual Forever Johnno fundraiser will return to the Coogee Bay Hotel on Friday, September 18, to raise funds for the Clancy Ward at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead. The fundraiser honours the life of John Anders Ward, a Coogee local and son of Mal Ward, who died of liver disease in 2008. The Clancy Ward, where Johnno received his treatment, cares for children with liver and kidney problems.
This year’s fundraiser not only marks the 20th annual fundraiser for the Clancy Ward, but also celebrates what would have been Johnno’s 21st birthday, and Mal is hoping to raise $21,000 – the most ambitious target yet.
“It’s a bit disappointing that the night may not go ahead, but even with COVID-19 it’ll be our biggest year yet,” Mr Ward told The Beast.
The fundraising event is typically scheduled in May each year but was postponed this year due to lockdown restrictions. If Sydney follows Melbourne’s lead and goes back into lockdown, the event, including an online auction, will be held virtually.
“The raffle is the bulk of the money we raise, but if we don’t have the event we won’t get to have the raffle,” Mr Ward said.
“If you were going to come and buy $50 worth of raffle tickets, maybe you could go online and donate that money instead, or buy a limited edition t-shirt to support the cause.”
Johnno was only 20 months old when he had his first liver transplant, having been diagnosed with Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency. Mr Ward started fundraising for the Clancy Ward soon after and has continued raising money since Johnno passed.
“At the time we just thought, ‘Let’s do something positive,’ and away we went,” Mr Ward told The Beast.
“Then, when he died, it made me even more determined to keep raising money for the ward.”
The funds raised by Forever Johnno in previous years have provided the wards with beds that allow parents to sleep by their child’s side, portable televisions with Xboxes and cupboards full of games and books. The donations are well appreciated by the ward, which doesn’t receive any other external fundraising.
“I didn’t know until I had been fundraising for around 14 years that I was the only one fundraising for Clancy ward,” Mr Ward explained.
As twenty years have passed, it would be easy for the Forever Johnno campaign to fade into the background, but this year is set to be the biggest yet. An integral component in the longevity of the fundraiser is the next generation of locals who were the same age as Johnno that have grown up hearing about Forever Johnno and his legacy.
“I’ve got 18 and 19 year-olds coming up to me now at barbeques saying, ‘Hey, we knew your son, we knew Johnno,’ and I suppose I sometimes forget because he was so little, that he’d be grown up now,” Mr Ward told The Beast.
After twenty years of fundraising, Mal shows no sign of slowing down. We asked him whether he ever envisioned Forever Johnno continuing on for such a long time?
“Did I think it was going to go for 20 years? No,” Mr Ward replied, “but when I was on the cover of The Beast back in 2016, I said I would do it forever until I die, so I think I will.”
You can donate to the Forever Johnno fundraiser through the link on the Forever Johnno Facebook page, and you can order a t-shirt for $50 by contacting Mal Ward directly at