2 August, 2022
Looking back on 20 years of Jeans for Genes Day
From the humble beginnings of a small table and chair outside 3D’s Butchery, Jenny Johnston began fundraising for Jeans for Genes (J4G) when she noticed its presence missing in Gilgandra.
Now going into her 21st year running J4G in town, Ms Johnston thinks it’s about time to reflect on 20 years of hard work and community spirit.
“I have always supported J4G day. In
2001 I walked into Target wearing my
jeans to buy a badge, only to be told they
no longer sold them,” said Ms Johnston.
“The next year I decided to start
fundraising for the Children’s Medical
Research Institute by organising a community
Beginning in 2002, the late Wes
Morris (Dooga) and Jeffery Irvin
(Bulldog) were Ms Johnston’s number
“They would always let me sit outside
their shop, for over 10 years I did
that. And they would always support me
in any way they could,” said Ms
“They have both passed away
from cancer recently. We all know someone
who has passed away or has been
affected by cancer, and cancer is a genetic
It began with the selling of badges,
explained Ms Johnston, before it became
all sorts of other merchandise. In that
first year of what would be two decades,
$1300 was raised from the community.
“This was an outstanding effort for
the first year, especially since we were
only selling badges!” exclaimed Ms
As recognition of J4G in the community
grew, so did sales, support, and generosity.
People became more aware of
the charity and what it supported, and
each year the community dug a little
deeper into their pockets and in ways of
2008 marked a special year for Ms
Johnston, as it was the one year, out of
the 20 so far, she wasn’t able to make it
on J4G day in Gilgandra.
“Garry (my husband) was diagnosed
with acute myeloid leukemia. Lisa
White, the wife of the printer at The
Gilgandra Weekly stepped in to run the
J4G day while I was away with my husband
having treatment at RPA,” said Ms
Without that act of kindness and commitment,
J4G day in Gilgandra may not
be where it is today.
It was in 2012 that
Esmae and Neville Toll came on board
the J4G bus, and started selling what they
could inside IGA, in prime position. 11
years on and the dedicated couple and
significant helpers along the way have
become a staple on J4G day each year.
A wave or a smile has always greeted
you at IGA on J4G day, and Ms Johnston
is grateful for the continuous support.
This support has significantly grown
over the years, and Ms Johnston is overwhelmed
with the amount of love individuals
have given to her and the charity
along the way.
This includes Ms Johnston’s family,
who have been by her side since the very
“They have helped me every step of
the way, running stalls, raffles at Cooee,
always helping me in any way they can,”
said Ms Johnston.
Dooga and Bulldog let Ms Johnston
stay outside 3D’s Butchery for 15-years.
This was until Lynette Ridges came on
board in 2017, and started cooking cupcakes
to create a proper J4G stall.
“Lynette started cooking cupcakes to
sell, and Helen Oates organised it all.
Without those two I would have never
gone into the kiosk, and I would never
have progressed to where the fundraiser
is today,” said Ms Johnston.
One-in-21 children are born with a
genetic disease or birth defect, and 2017
is the year that it really hit hard in
This was the year that Laura and
Damien Jordan had their second child
Bridie, who was born with an extremely
rare genetic syndrome.
“Bridie has Mainzer-Saldino Syndrome
(MSS) which affects bone growth
and also caused her to have craniosynostosis,”
Mrs Jordan told The Gilgandra
Weekly in 2019.
As quoted: “parts of Bridie’s skull were fused together, which mean there was not enough room for her brain to grow inside her skull. Bridie underwent two surgeries as an infant to allow her brain and skull to grow”.
At the time, Aussie Kindies centre
manager Veronica Sutherland said they
were now learning keyword signing in
order to communicate more with Bridie.
This was such an incredible milestone
for the Gilgandra community, and there
have since been children able to communicate
with more ease following the
introduction of keyword signing.
“Telling Bridie’s story helped us
highlight children’s genetic diseases, and
raised the awareness of what J4G day is
all about,” said Ms Johnston.
In 2018, Ms Johnston’s hard work
was recognised, after she made the
Children’s Medical Research Centre
(CMRC) honour wall. This was recognised again in
2020, after Ms Johnston raised her record total to that
point was $10,000.
“I really want you to know how grateful we are for
your tireless efforts year after year, and the community
that supports your work, even when faced with the challenges
of restrictions due to COVID-19,” wrote
CMRC’s director of fundraising Robert Wynn in a letter
to Ms Johnston.
“I can’t actually put into words how much it has
meant to us. We did expect that fundraising was going
to be hard this year (2020), especially in certain areas.
“Mrs Johnston has always tried to better the last
year’s sales and she’s succeeded in that.”
Reflecting on the past 20 years, Ms Johnston
laughed at the fact J4G has had “a lot of new record
headlines”, referring to The Gilgandra Weekly’s ‘record
breaking’ coverage each year.
“We’ve always wanted to do more than we had the
year before, and we almost always did,” she said.
Johnston’s place of work, Gilgandra Motors, have
always supported J4G in any way they can.
have always supported me through the years, and I am
very grateful” said Ms Johnston.
Bringing it back to the
present day, Ms Johnston has been collecting bottle and
can recycling from anyone willing to donate over the
past few months.
Just from community events such as Night Under the
Gums, the speedway, the footy club, and personal donations,
Ms Johnston has raised over $4000, and J4G Day
hasn’t even happened yet!
As the communities J4G effort evolves, and
fundraising efforts reach higher and higher goals, Ms
Johnston wants to thank every single business that has
ever sold her badges, chocolates, made donations, or
supported her in some way.
“St Joseph’s Primary School has supported J4G
since it’s humble beginnings in Gilgandra. While the
fundraiser started simply down the street, it was St
Joey’s that got the children involved 20 years ago, educating
them on genetic diseases and the mission of J4G.
“The schools have educated a generation of children on J4G, and genetic diseases.
“They have encouraged the students
to participate and understand the cause,
they have been amazing support since the
As the campaign grew, the other
schools also came on board, continuing
to spread awareness of the fundraisers’
incredible cause. Ms Johnston is humbled
by the achievements reached as a
community, and wants to remind people
of why she started J4G in Gilgandra to
“My sister Robyn was born
with a brain disorder, and seeing other
children with different disabilities and
childhood diseases, I knew this was the
organisation I wanted to support. Their
focus is on research and their scientists
are world renowned.”
From the humble beginnings in 2002
raising $1300, to 20 years on raising
$11,540 in 2021, the possibilities of this
year’s efforts are endless. A total of
$79,000 has been raised over the past 20
years in Gilgandra alone, and Ms
Johnston is excited to see where the community
can go this year.
“Bring on Jeans 4 Genes Day this year!”