The sudden loss of cyclist Luke Azzopardi more than 12 months ago sent shock waves through the whole community.
None were more impacted than his immediate family and loved ones.
Luke’s Oma AnneMarie Helmke described the 19-year-old as an incredibly positive influence on her life and she is walking to Cooktown during Australian Retirement Trust’s QSuper Cardiac Challenge, as part of her fundraising for the cause.
The event was one of Luke’s favourites and he had been heard to say not long before his death, that no matter where he was in the world, it was one he would always come “home” for. Cycling to Cooktown was not something she felt able to do, but Ms Helmke still wanted to contribute.
Ms Helmke, aged 75, often cared for Luke as an infant during holidays if his mother had work commitments. The two developed a special bond as a result.
“I’m planning to walk from Mossman to Cooktown, it’s only 168km and I’ll time it so I hopefully arrive in time for the cyclists, including my daughter Sue,” Ms Helmke said.
“We lose people, we’re going to die, it’s nature. We must enjoy the times we have together. Luke is the biggest inspiration to me. He always used to tell me that you can do anything you put your mind to.”
While on the road AnneMarie, has offered to be a personalised chef for residents en-route in exchange for a donation to her fundraising. Residents can approach AnneMarie during the walk and she will cook a two-course meal for them using ingredients in their fridge/garden, set the table and do the dishes, clean up following the meal. She plans to stay in her tent at various campsites along the way.
AnneMarie’s daughter Sue first took part in the QSuper Cardiac Challenge in 2009, riding for her colleague Darren Rose, who died of a sudden heart attack. That was Luke’s first exposure to cycling events and it became his lifelong passion. She has participated almost every year since then.
Luke’s sister Jasmine is a supporter and their dad Ian Azzopardi is a volunteer.
The Far North Queensland Hospital Foundation, which hosts the QSuper Cardiac Challenge, has contributed more than $5 million to cardiology in the Far North in the past 25 years – most of that through the fundraising bike ride.
Foundation CEO Gina Hogan said Ms Helmke’s undertaking was to be commended.
“This is an incredible goal and I admire AnneMarie’s courage and determination to make this happen. She is certainly an inspiration to us all that you can set your targets and achieve them,” Mrs Hogan said.
“We’re very grateful for this beautiful family’s support, despite the terrible hardship they have endured,” she said.
To support AnneMarie’s fundraising visit:
• The 2021 QSuper Cardiac Challenge resulted in the purchase of a $30,000 ventilator for cardiology, a $146,000 ultrasound for paediatric cardiology, detailed lung function testing and a hybrid bronchoscope valued at $275,000 for respiratory and a $25,000 body composition scanner for endocrinology. This year’s event will be held from September 17-19.
About the QSuper Cardiac Challenge
The QSuper Cardiac Challenge is an annual fundraising bike ride from Cairns to Cooktown, hosted by the Far North Queensland Hospital Foundation. 2022 will be the 16th time the Cardiac Challenge bike ride has been held, with almost $5 million raised for cardiac services by the Foundation, in that time.
About Australian Retirement Trust
As a part of Australian Retirement Trust, QSuper looks after the retirement savings of many Queensland Health employees in the state’s Far North, and is proud to support initiatives that helps its members working in cardiac health to provide state-of-the-art care for their patients. Australian Retirement Trust is the superannuation fund formed through the merger of Sunsuper and QSuper. It’s one of Australia’s largest super funds and proud to take care of over $200 billion in retirement savings for more than two million members. As a fund that works for members, not shareholders, Australian Retirement Trust works in members’ best interests, and is committed to returning profits to them as lower fees and better services.

Photo: Foundation CEO Gina Hogan, Sue Helmke, Jasmine Azzopardi and AnneMarie Helmke. INSET: Luke Azzopardi