Many people find meaning in volunteering. Some, like Mel and Jason Dearmer, find love.
The pair met five years ago when they were volunteers for the Orana Relay for Life event.
“I saw pictures of Jason on Lee’s social media, and I thought he looked lovely and friendly,” Mel says. “He has this incredible, warm smile that I was immediately drawn to.”
The deputy chair of Orana for Life played matchmaker and brought the two together on Facebook.
The couple kept chatting, but despite Mel’s efforts, Jason did not get the hints.
Then Mel got very sick.
“I went to hospital unable to breathe properly, and they found that I had a chest full of blood clots and a 4kg tumour,” she says. “It was what they call borderline ovarian cancer.
“Thankfully, after a year or so, the clots disappeared, and they removed the tumour.”
The first date
Not willing to wait any longer, Mel decided to take some action.
“I was in hospital thinking that this guy isn’t taking the hint; why does the girl have to wait for the guy to ask? If he says no, what’s the worst that can happen? I nearly died after all! So I asked him on a date, and he said yes.”
I can’t guarantee you will meet the love of your life, but I can guarantee you will get the warm fuzzies and feel an incredible sense of achievement for helping people in your community.
— Mel Dearmer
Mel and Jason’s first date happened around Christmas. They had dinner and took a bus tour of Christmas lights.
“We had a little third wheel on our first date – my oxygen tank! I told him to watch my lips and let me know if they turned blue,” Mel says.
“The whole night, I was trying to work out if he was thinking about kissing me or if he was just making sure I was okay. Turns out it was both.”
The couple had a second date a month later at Taronga Western Plains Zoo, where they shared their first kiss.
Mel had to return home to Mudgee and for eight months, the couple dated long distance. A job came up in Dubbo, allowing Mel to relocate to be with Jason.
Unbeknownst to her, before Mel’s father passed away, Jason had asked her father for his permission to marry her. Mel recalls being oblivious to Jason’s proposal.
“He was playing Michael Buble in the car, which is my favourite, but a bit odd for him. When we got home, the house was really clean, and candles were everywhere.
“I was busy opening up my mail with my back to him, and he started saying all these really lovely things. I nearly missed the proposal because I was so busy opening mail.”
Becoming partners for life
Mel and Jason eloped six weeks later in September 2019, officially becoming partners for life.
“We were married at the zoo where we had our first kiss,” Mel says. “It was a small private ceremony with a celebrant and my sister and a friend as witnesses.
“The ceremony was on a public deck near the function area and overlooking the monkeys. We had people clapping and cheering as they went past.”
Why volunteering matters
The Dearmers are passionate about volunteering with Cancer Council NSW. Mel is a volunteer representative for the NSW Western Region and is on the Relay for Life Steering Committee.
For Mel, cancer hits close to home as her mother had stage 4 lung cancer in 2011, and she is a cancer survivor.
“I didn’t want mum’s cancer journey to be for nothing. I was a carer and now a survivor, there’s so much information out there that people just don’t know about.
“I look at [volunteering] as an opportunity to help – and give back to the organisation that helped me.”
Jason has been a volunteer with Cancer Council NSW since 2015, when he joined the Dubbo Relay For Life committee. He has fundraised for Daffodil Day and volunteered for Stars of Dubbo: Dance for Cancer.
“Jason is amazing,” Mel says. “He’s one of those people who just loves to help others.”
Mel encourages everyone to consider volunteering with Cancer Council NSW.
“There are so many different levels of volunteering, even if you only have limited time available, it still makes a big difference,” she says.
“I can’t guarantee you will meet the love of your life, but I can guarantee you will get the warm fuzzies and feel an incredible sense of achievement for helping people in your community.”
Become a volunteer
This National Volunteer Week, we celebrate the valuable contributions of all our volunteers who share our vision of a cancer free future.
If you want to find out more about volunteering and see what opportunities are available, visit our Volunteer With Us section.