Eighteen year old Jackson Byrnes of Casino needs an urgent operation to remove a brain tumour.
Eighteen year old Jackson Byrnes of Casino needs an urgent operation to remove a brain tumour. Contributed

WE WERE THERE: How we helped you save Jackson Byrnes

WE WERE THERE is a series that revisits The Northern Star's in-depth coverage of the major events that have shaped the Northern Rivers over the past 20 years. Today, we look back at the paper's fight to help Casino family raise $80,000 in four days for the teen's vital surgery.

IT'S not often you can say a newspaper has helped to save a life during the course of a publishing year, but in the case of The Northern Star, we can.

In April 2015, the Star ran a series of stories about Casino teenager Jackson Byrnes and his family's desperate efforts to raise $80,000 in four days in order for renowned surgeon Dr Charlie Teo to operate and remove an otherwise fatal brain tumour.

Jackson Byrnes pictured in hospital with his girlfriend Jahnae Jackson and NRL stars Matt King, Keith Galloway and Lote Tuqiri.
Jackson Byrnes pictured in hospital with his girlfriend Jahnae Jackson and NRL stars Matt King, Keith Galloway and Lote Tuqiri. Contributed

This required a whole of newsroom approach running across all of the Star's platforms including print, website, Facebook and Twitter.

On Friday, April 17 we splashed the first of three consecutive front pages under the banner headline 'Fight of his life'.

The family of Jackson Byrnes, from left, Maton Byrnes, Jackson Byrnes, Tyler Fardon,9, Rhonda Byrnes and Eden Byrnes. Photo Contributed
The family of Jackson Byrnes, from left, Maton Byrnes, Jackson Byrnes, Tyler Fardon,9, Rhonda Byrnes and Eden Byrnes. Photo Contributed Contributed

The online version of the story was plugged on Facebook and Twitter and we urged the entire Northern Rivers community to get behind the family's crowd funding campaign to raise $80,000.

On the day our coverage began the crowd funding campaign had only raised around $2000, but by day's end it had reached $25,000, as the news spread and donations began to flood in.

We splashed Jackson's story on the front page again on Saturday, April 18 in a brilliant cover for our biggest selling paper of the week (circulation averaging 13,000).

The 'Let's save Jackson' page was hampered because we didn't have any fresh pictures of Jackson, who was in too much pain and too self-conscious about his appearance to pose for fresh images.

It required some creative thinking to come up with the 'honour roll' inspired front page which featured a cross section of the ordinary mums, dads and children who were helping to save Jackson $5 at a time.

The target was reached on Monday morning with hours left to spare and our third and final front page was a clever countdown gauge accompanying the headline 'Jackson's fight to survive: C'mon we can do it'.

By Tuesday, Jackson and his family were on their way to Sydney and on Wednesday, Jackson had his surgery which was declared a success by Dr Teo and his surgical team.



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