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Cancer Council legal counsel takes on ‘unthinkable’ challenge to support cancer research

This month, Cancer Council NSW legal counsel Danielle Merlino will take part in the Autumn 2024 Shitbox Rally challenge. The event aims to raise vital funds for the Cancer Council’s national cancer research project, a cause that holds deep personal significance for her.

user iconGrace Robbie 09 April 2024 Big Law
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Daniella Merlino (pictured) is gearing up to join “over 500 people” to participate in the 14th annual Shitbox Rally challenge, the largest community-led fundraiser for Cancer Council.

In this challenge, participants are encouraged to drive cars valued at less than “$1,500, on a seven-day drive across Australia”, navigating through tough terrain to raise funds for life-saving cancer research.

Since the inaugural Box Rallies event in 2010, the Cancer Council has disclosed that “over $44 million has been raised to improve outcomes for people that are diagnosed with cancer”.


This cause resonates deeply with many Australians due to the prevalence of cancer diagnoses nationwide, with “almost one in two people will be impacted by cancer before the age of 85”.

Danielle Merlino, who will be participating in her fourth Shitbox Rally, relates to this statistic, stating: “Like most people, I have lost close friends and family to cancer. I have also experienced caring for someone with cancer.”

Merlino opened up about her partner being diagnosed with cancer when she was 22 years old and about to finish university.

“Within 48 hours, we had gone from carefree students playing trivia and watching movies with friends to my partner recovering from emergency surgery, attending specialist appointments to discuss further treatment options and having to navigate uncomfortable conversations around what felt like very far away ‘adult’ topics like fertility and death,” Merlino commented.

Enduring this deeply comforting yet distressing experience has profoundly impacted Merlino’s life, igniting her passion for supporting the cause in every way possible.

“I am not so scientifically minded, so working for Cancer Council NSW and fundraising are ways for me to contribute my skills towards improving outcomes for those impacted by this heartbreaking disease,” Merlino stated.

Thanks to the generous donations of people, including Merlino and her Shitbox Rally team, Cancer Council has been able to raise "over $2 million" for this year’s challenge, with the Shitbox Rally team aiming to “raise another $5,000 this year”.

Merlino commented: “Every single donation is hugely appreciated, especially now when increases in the cost of living are putting pressure on people’s budgets.”

For those inspired by Merlino’s journey, she expressed that “whether it’s the scenery, the generosity of people or the crazy costumes you’ll see, it feels awesome to be part of this group of people who together have done something almost unbelievable”.