A Lesson for All – Biesse’s kitchen donation to assist the Blinman family
11 January 2024
The late economist Milton Friedman was famously quoted to have said, “The business of business is business” but for Biesse, the business of business is also to care, and sometimes, as with Damian and Kathryn, to give where it was not asked.
Damian and Kathryn’s story began in September 2021 when, in the midst of the pandemic, Damian was diagnosed with bowel and liver cancer. Damian was a referee for the local football league and noticed he was getting more fatigued after ‘reffing’ a few games. At first they put it down to lifestyle but eventually decided to see a GP leading to blood tests and CT scans. Damian was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic bowel cancer; a cancer that has spread to the liver. What followed is a tale of determination, a positive attitude and a belief they could overcome the challenges imposed on their family.
Damian is currently a high-risk trainer and assessor but started out as a chef at the age of sixteen. They’ve moved around the country from time to time and ten years ago, Kathryn and Damian moved from Far North Queensland to Gunnedah, 66km west of Tamworth in New South Wales with their three children; Ellyn, Cooper and Toby. Andrew Pratt, now territory manager for Biesse, was at that time the Gunnedah real estate agent who sold them their new home and Damian, Kathryn and Andrew have remained good friends ever since.
Kathryn and Damian have a young family; Ellyn is 19, Cooper is 17 and Toby, 15. The whole family has pulled together; Kath said, “Damian is remarkable, his mindset about eliminating negative words like ‘cancer survivor’ that battle against the energy needed to fight this is amazing.” Early this year Damian underwent successful surgery to remove the bowel cancer, but the liver cancer remains and so too, their challenge.
In August this year, when it made sense to Damian and Kath to speed up their home renovations because of their unknown future, they asked Andrew if he could suggest a good kitchen manufacturer through his industry connections. There was also the local issue of trades being booked solid for up to six months. Andrew said, “Leave it with me, I’ll handle this for you.” Kath admits she would normally like to have been more involved in the details of this type of project, but she and Damian had bigger issues to tackle so Andrew’s offer to ‘handle it’ was very welcome. Damian said, “Andrew made the process so much simpler for us, and the kitchen goes way beyond everything we expected it would be.”
Andrew approached Biesse with the idea they could help Damian and Kathryn and Biesse agreed without hesitation. Andrew; who is a qualified Cabinet Maker (Kitchens and Bathrooms), designed the kitchen using CAD software and with Abdul, Biesse’s showroom manager, produced the components at their Sydney showroom. Biesse were using their machines for demonstrations, and it made sense to process a kitchen that needn’t be recycled; it would go into someone’s home. During their recent open house, Polytec offered to supply the benchtops and board, and Hettich offered to supply the hardware after hearing about this meaningful project.
Andrew incorporated Kathryns few, “We would like” into the design and Simon and Matt Whiley at SMW Kitchens in Tamworth, Biesse users, came on board to instal the kitchen. Kathryn and Damian understood they were getting a kitchen at a good price and were grateful they could save a few dollars in their time of need. At no time up until the kitchen was installed mid-December did they find out that it was almost entirely free of cost. To say that moment was emotional would be an understatement. After all they have been through, this act of kindness and unqualified support, for the most part from people they had never met, was overwhelming.
It’s important for industry leaders to focus on developing a culture of care. Kathryn and Damian were not expecting the gift they received from Biesse, Hettich, Polytec and SMW Kitchens. They asked for nothing but for some advice. Biesse saw how important Damian and Kathryn were to Andrew and so, it was also important to Biesse. Andrew said, “Biesse gave me the time to be able to put my energy into something far bigger than us. I think what many of us learned through the recent pandemic was that we should look after each other more.”
“In a World where so much is going on you wonder where the compassion and kindness is. The level these guy’s went to; we just can’t believe it and we don’t know how we could ever repay it; we don’t have enough words to express how we feel about what they’ve done for us. The day we were officially given the diagnosis was during Covid; we couldn’t go anywhere but to a shopping centre in Tamworth. We were buying donuts, and I couldn’t figure out which card to use. People were probably thinking what’s wrong with her. It changed my way of thinking because you don’t know what people are going through.”
Christmas 2023 and Damian and Kathryn will have many family and friends over for some good food cooked by Damian in their new showroom kitchen. Kath and Damian admit their future is uncertain but for now, the family is pulling together. “This wasn’t going to stop our lives, but things have definitely changed.” Says Kath. A caravan has seen the family out and about, dependent on Damian’s medical treatment. It’s possible that a new protocol liver transplant at Sydney’s Royal Prince Alfred Hospital may be possible if conditions are right.
In life, there are times when you don’t get a second chance. Your health, specifically the identification of a serious condition, is one of those times. Sadly, too many people, most often men, are not likely to see the signs, or act soon enough to ensure timely treatment, leading to a full recovery. Kathryn said, “If, through reading our story, one person says ‘Maybe I should get a blood test done’ it might make a difference and could change their future. None of us are bulletproof and maybe our story is a lesson for everyone.”