Beyond Sight are an Auxiliary that raise funds to help find a cure for retinoblastoma, a condition that effects one in 14,000 children. They recently held a Swimathon, where members of Hoppers Crossing Swimming Club covered over 696 kms over 24 hours to raise funds.
A massive effort from all the young people involved – most of the participants were kids from the swimming club. We are sure it’s not much fun to be swimming at midnight! But they got a hugely successful result. The money raised - approximately $13,000 and still counting - will be used to fund an interactive website and educational DVD for newly diagnosed families.
Below is a report of the big day from Ainsley Faust, President of Beyond Sight, and RCH retinoblastoma parent.
After a shaky start, with a limited number of swimmers signed up, we began the day on a high with an opening blessing by Father Bob Maguire.
Father Bob had everyone excited and pumped about the next 24 hours and offered words of encouragement to both participants and helpers.
Retinoblastoma coordinator Sandra Staffieri made it in time to watch the first swimmers enter the water and was there on the sidelines to shout support on behalf of retinoblastoma families.
We also had the privilege of welcoming Dr James Elder of The Royal Children’s Hospital’s Department of Ophthalmology. James was the specialist who first diagnosed Lochie some 13 years ago, so to have him attend to show support for the cause was fantastic. James and his wife Katie then returned on Sunday morning and donned their bathers to swim some laps.
The day was filled with laughter with kids playing on the jumping castle and having their faces painted all courtesy of wonderful sponsors.
Young retinoblastoma sufferer Riley Hill jumped in to swim some laps, “I can only do one lap he says to me”. Well two hours later mum and dad had to drag him out of the pool. What a great achievement Riley, well done!
We were all fed extremely well with the BBQ Boys turning over hundreds of sausages, hamburgers, dim sims, fairy floss and popcorn. A great effort considering they were juggling the cooking with swimming!
From the distance I could see a familiar face, Stefan Recupero. Stefan was diagnosed 13 years ago at the same time as Lochie. Whilst Lochie endured years of invasive treatment Stefan had his eye removed immediately. It was great to see them after many years.
As the day turned into darkness public access to the pool was closed and the atmosphere totally changed. The music was cranked up and the swimmers had another lease of life. Have you ever noticed how much easier it is to swim when you have a music in your ears?
Midnight came and we had some more crazy people join our cause after a night out or after the kids were tucked up into bed, whilst the new brought energy, the kids were now struggling with fatigue. However getting them to rest in their off times was almost impossible.
Each shift became harder and harder, but not once did the kids complain! Even with cold wet towels and chlorine burn they kept swimming towards their goal.
As the sun started breaking through the windows we were well on the way to our 12 noon target.
The BBQ Boys turned the sausage sizzles into bacon and egg muffins and in rolled the Coffee Van. Boy did we need Coffee! Ahhhhhh coffee smells so good at 6am with no sleep!
Each hour saw new swimmers bringing with them the enthusiasm we needed to get us through the next couple of hours.
Father Bob Maguire made another appearance, still blown away by the sheer dedication these kids had shown over the past 20 odd hours.
When we first discussed the swimathon with the kids I introduced the idea of bringing in a friend of mine, Sam Valavanis. Sam lost his battle with retinoblastoma at the age of 4 when he had both of his eyes removed.
Sam is an active and intelligent young boy who jumped at the chance to hop in the pool with the kids.
Sam and dad Jim arrived around 11am in time to help us swim the final hour. The kids at this stage were bordering on exhaustion, combined with excitement for what they were about to complete. Not a great combination with so many kids!
The final lap saw us complete a gruelling 696 kilometres, falling short of our targeted 5,500 kilometres, however nonetheless a huge task with as little as 120 swimmers.
With that Lochie thanked everyone for helping support families and children affected by retinoblastoma. Sandra Staffieri spoke emotionally about how this has touched her and what an amazing experience it has been to see so many people wanting to help families.
The money raised (approximately $13,000 and still counting) will be used to fund an interactive website and educational DVD for newly diagnosed families.
I suppose in summing it all up Sam Valavanis, now 9, spoke beautifully. He merely stated that it had overwhelmed his family to think we were able to do this and help other sufferers. A very mature young man who basically brought the pool to tears, maybe the total exhaustion had something to do with it?
The 24 hour swimathon could not have been a success without the following sponsors:
UMS Pty Ltd, Wyndham Leisure and Events Centre, SupaTurf, Hoppers Crossing Sports Club, Foodbiz, Noone Imagwear, Grashan Printing, Pro Plumbing Pty Ltd, Waters Edge, Black Swan Motor Inn, CabFare, CAM Project Management, ACDP Earthworks Pty Ltd, Watton Street Optical, Coral Pools, Jens Gaunt Real Estate and Clarke Nicholas Constructions.
Bring on next year! We aim to make it bigger and better!
More about Beyond Sight here.