IN APRIL 2016, the Cronin family went through the hardest period of their lives following the death of Patrick.
Out on a Saturday night with mates, Pat stepped in to try and pull his mate out of a fight. With the noblest of intentions, Pat tried to protect and help his friend, but was hit from behind by a coward-punch.
This hit proved to be fatal with Pat passing away in hospital two days later.
While suffering, the family knew they didn’t want other families to go through the same thing.
It was in those early days the Pat Cronin Foundation sprung into life.
“We’ve always had a lot of community involvement,” Matt Cronin, Pat’s father and foundation director, said.
“People were contacting us asking ‘what can we do – is there a cause we can get behind to try and make a difference?’
“A friend of mine is involved with White Ribbon and he made a comment that they did a fantastic job, but there wasn’t anything to focus on men and violence on men.
“We decided to do something.
“Let’s try and make a pretty horrible time in our lives and see what we can do to make some positives out of it.”
The foundation was set up to with the intent to try and end the coward-punch and eventually take on a broader focus towards violence in general.
A lot of the early work of the foundation was done behind the scenes while the trial surrounding the incident occurred.
But with the court case behind them, it is full steam ahead. Cronin said there are three main focuses of the foundation.
He said one of the biggest things early on, was how people could relate to them and realised that this could happen to anyone.
“We’ve raised over $250,000 already and that’s been through grass roots support, networks and community groups we’re a part of,” Cronin said. “Our number one aim is to end the coward punch. We’ve already heard stories where fights have been stopped as someone has been wearing one of our silicon wrist bands.
“We want education programs and we will have to train people up to run our education programs when we have them finalised.
“And we want to run a research project. We’re in early discussions with La Trobe uni about doing that the reasons why people behave this way.”
Later this month, the foundation will hold its first public event, Walk to Valley.
More than 2000 people are expected to attend the walk, which sees walkers start at Warringal Park, Heidelberg through the Yarra and Plenty river trails to the Lower Plenty Football Ground, where there will be entertainment and food.
Cronin said they were looking to raise $50,000. It’s the second year the walk has been run, with last year’s walk being held by other people to raise money for the foundation.
“This event is like the people’s launch of the foundation,” he said,
“Last year we originally thought if we could raise $10,000, it would be good. We raised $35,000.
“This year, we’ve set a modest… For us it’s not just about raising the money, it’s about the three things the foundation is about.”
The walk has already gathered plenty of support from a number of groups including the sporting community.
Basketball Victoria is supporting the walk, as are a number of clubs including Eltham Wildcats and Diamond Valley Eagles.
Pat played basketball at Eltham for a number of years and last played at the association in under-18s with friends.
Cronin said sporting organisations like basketball clubs were the perfect places to start conversations about one punches and the consequences they have.
“Sport teaches you so many lessons,” he said. “It teaches you to look after each other.
“Anywhere there will be a gathering of young people, we’re interested in talking to them. Whether it is in schools, cricket, football or basketball clubs we’re interested in talking to them.”
Diamond Valley Basketball Association’s Zoe Carr said they had no hesitation in supporting the cause when they were contacted by Cronin.
She said with nearly 6000 people involved at the association they had a responsibility to the community to focus on more than just what happens on the court.
“We want to encourage a holistic approach,” she said.
“It’s not just basketball, it’s important for all the obvious reasons, but there’s a life after basketball and a life outside of basketball.
“If we can have our members look back and say I’ve learnt this at Diamond Valley and they can say that it helped me in my job, in my personal relationships or at school, it’s a massive win for us.”
Having been involved in charity basketball games to raise money in the past, it’s a group of players that are taking a lead in the Eagles’ team which will be involved in Walk to the Valley.
Carr said the group of players had taken ownership of getting a team up and going and it was something the association was proud of.
“We’ve just started a program at Diamond Valley which is a mentor program for young girls, just to try and buck the trend of drop offs and keep participation levels as high as possible.
“We’ve got our little under-12s that are in the program and they all have an under-16 or 18 buddy. A big part of it was about making sure the group also gives back to the community.
“When this came in, I spoke with the girls and they loved it. The girls have been handing out fliers and getting friends and teams to come and join this team and do it with us.
“In the day of social media, if one of these girls is starting to spread the message it’s going out to a 1000 people.
“There are 30 girls in this program so that’s a lot of reach.”
Carr said what the foundation was looking to achieve was important in society and they would be keen to continue to be involved later on, possibly hosting education sessions.
“We have a lot of young boys running around down there and you just never know, so the more education the better.”
For more information on the walk – held Sunday 19 November – and the Pat Cronin Foundation, go to the Pat Cronin Foundation Facebook page.