The Oak Flats Lioness Club has raised more than $1,700 for the Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute at their annual Rubber Duck Derby earlier this month.

The Lionesses aimed to raise funds for dementia research in the Illawarra, with PhD student Rachelle Balez being awarded the donation.

Rachelle’s research focuses on Alzheimer’s disease. She changes skin cells from people with Alzheimer’s disease into stem cells, and then grows brain cells. Using these cells, Rachelle investigates the differences between those with and without the disease.

She said that the donation came as quite a surprise, but she is always grateful for recognition from the wider community.

“Often when you’re in the lab, you can become quite isolated and focused on the very specific questions you’re asking. Community engagement is a fantastic way of allowing myself as a researcher to step outside that box and remember the bigger picture of why I’m researching this disease,” said Rachelle.

She plans to use the money to buy specific materials for new experiments, or to fund her travel to an international conference for dementia research in Kyoto.

The Rubber Duck Derby is the second IHMRI fundraiser organised by the Oak Flats Lioness Club this year, with a trivia night held in May raising more than $2,000 for pancreatic cancer research.

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