Bailey’s Day, the charity golf day and auction adopted as ‘their charity’ by Dealers, has raised more than $2.5 million for cancer research, doctor training and a Children’s Cancer Centre over the past decade.
Much of the money raised is due to the dedication and commitment of Bay City Holden’s Mark Sawicki, who acts as the auctioneer and always manages to squeeze a few more dollars out of every bidder.
Mark has been involved with Bailey’s Day from the beginning in 2004, not hesitating to volunteer his time to help old friend and Bailey’s Day founder, Patrick Tessier, who established the charity after losing his infant son, Bailey, to a brain tumour.
When Bailey was treated at Monash Medical Centre, the hospital shared a part-time oncologist and there was no dedicated cancer ward. The money raised by Bailey’s Day has built a Children’s Cancer Centre and funded the training of a dozen paediatric oncologists.
“I’ve known Patrick for 30 years, basically since I bought into Noel Gould in 1986,” says Mark.
“When Patrick rang me and told me that his boy wasn’t well, from that day on we kept in touch and when Patrick told me what he wanted to do and asked me if I wanted to be involved, straight away I said ‘of course’.”
Watching his old friend suffer through the loss of a child reminded Mark of the feelings of helplessness he’d experienced watching a colleague go through something similar. He knew he had to do something.
“I’ve always had a passion for auctions, always wanted to auction, and Bailey’s Day gave me the passion to start the auction. I love it because I can see the good it’s done, and I can also see the people bidding on it – their commitment to the cause is just fantastic. It’s great, from where I stand, to see how involved people want to be.
“Some of the Dealers have taken it to heart as much as I have. I think because of Bailey himself – such a young boy, the life he could have had – taken away so quickly because of the lack of money, and the research and care probably weren’t available. I was astounded that it was only part-time. It drove me to think to myself, ‘Imagine what would happen – and it has – if they had the money to do it full-time’.”
Everyone involved with Bailey’s Day has been blown away by how enthusiastically the Dealer community has supported the event, but Mark says that’s just a reflection of the strong family values common amongst Dealers.
“There are probably more family businesses in the car business than in any other business, with the involvement of sons and daughters,” he says.
“Most of them are family businesses. People don’t realise when they look at a big car business that inside is a family business.”
Mark says the generosity of spirit extends not just through the Dealership community, but into associated industries as well.
“The partnership that the car Dealer has with his suppliers, and the loyalty that the Dealer puts into the suppliers – for them to be able to come and do what they do, and generously give their product, is what it’s all about,” he says.
“The driver of all this is, of course, Patrick. It’s Patrick’s passion from day one and if it’s going to survive it will be because of Patrick. When Patrick feels that he’s done his job and says, ‘I’ve done what I wanted to achieve’, I think it will have run its course, but I think it’s got to be Patrick who says, ‘We’ve done it’.
“It’s something that’s both heartbreaking and inspirational. Being so close to Patrick and understanding how he lost his boy – and I have five grandkids. The more they do and the more we help, the better it is.”
Care for your community
Mark is a strong believer that Dealers should be active in their community.
“A Dealer has to be responsible for his prime area, and the more he can put into that community, the better,” he says.
Over a decade ago, former Essendon footballer, Ken Fletcher, dropped into Bay City Holden and informed Mark that the local Aldercourt Primary School needed a breakfast program because children were going without.
For more than a decade after that, Bay City sponsored daily breakfasts for kids at the school, with mothers coming to cook bacon and eggs and provide milk for children whose parents didn’t have the time or means to do it themselves.
“We’ve been invited to the school many times, my son and I, for breakfast when they were cooking it,” Mark says.
“Just to see the kids and how they get involved in serving it, and the mothers helping, it’s an eye-opener to what good can happen.”
The breakfast program has since been absorbed into the Victorian Department of Education and Training’s School Breakfast Clubs program, but the Sawickis are still generously providing for Aldercourt Primary School in the form of books and scholarships for students.
Having begun his career in the car industry with Reg Hunt in 1974, after time spent in National Service, Mark quickly appreciated it was a business in which he could excel.
“I left school at 12-and-a-half. What I found with car selling is that it’s your personality that secures a deal. When people come to buy a car they want to talk to somebody who can satisfy their needs, and that’s my forte. I’m good at talking to people, getting the best out of them. I am interested in people, I like a joke and I always have a good time. I found that my personality suited the car selling business,” he says.
“When you’re in the army and you’re standing with 100 other guys, you don’t know who they are, whether they’re a bricklayer or an engineer; you’re as equal as they are. I thought, ‘I’m as good as any of these guys. Why can’t I excel?’
“I started excelling in the army by trying to be fitter than the others. And when I started achieving my own goals, I realised I could do anything really. It’s how good you are as a person, how people perceive you and trust you, that determines how well you’re going to go in life.”
Mark has known wife, Leala, since he was 16, and says he couldn’t have achieved what he has without her. They have three children and five grandchildren together, and now that he’s reached retirement age he looks forward to giving back to enjoying his family more than ever.
“She’s very much a big force behind me. We went through it together. She believed in me. I think that’s the key; you’ve got to have somebody who believes in you.
“The plan from now is to spend a bit more time with my wife and the grandchildren, and let the boys (sons Adam and Josh) take it the next step. Both boys have the same outlook on life that I have, personality-wise. We don’t take life too seriously; we believe that if we do the right thing by people, people will do the right thing by us.
“I’m happy that the car business has enabled us to do things like Bailey’s Day. To make a difference. A guy like me, getting involved with Patrick and doing what we have done, is really one of my best accomplishments in life.”