Sunday, August 28, 2011

Live the Dream

One year tomorrow is the start of the 2012 London Paralympics!  It seems such a long way away, but in reality it will come around very quickly.  In 3 more days my first step in getting to London becomes reality as I head to Denmark for the World Para-cycling Championships.

I still have a couple of days of training left, but I have done my last ride on the road and I am as ready as I ever will be.  My training has gone really well over the last few weeks and I probably had the best ride yesterday I have ever had in training!  At the “young” age of 50 this is not what I had expected I would be doing at this point in time of my life…but hey I never have been conventional!

My dream for the last 4 years has been focused on the Paralympics, albeit I thought in a different sport, but that dream has never wavered.  When one door closes we are always told that another one will open, you just have to look for it.  Well the door to cycling has opened very quickly and I have had a number of wonderful people helping me to do the very best that I can possibly do.  So I would just like to thank those who have believed and helped me to this point:

Russ, my husband, has probably been my biggest supporter. Without Russ I would have a hard time putting all the time and effort into training.  He has never once said “Stop” or “Why are you doing this”, he just lets me do what I feel I have to do.

The Victorian Institute of Sport – all the staff have been so supportive and excited about my change of sport and without the support of Crooksy, my physical preparation coach in the gym over the last 4 years I would definitely not be where I am right now.

Helen and Bob Kelly, for taking me under their tutelage in the art of cycling!  Although I don’t think Helen is too fond of riding my trike!

Morey Wickham Chartered Accountants – thanks to Chris and Jim, my first ever sponsors!

My family and friends who at times must think I am nuts but who believe and support me in my goals.

Without all these pieces of my life coming together I wouldn’t be heading over to Denmark this week!  I have looked forward to and envisioned in great detail my dream and the future I want, now it is time to step forward and make it happen!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Pay it Forward

Okay so I stole the title from a movie, but it is the only way I can think of to title what I wanted to say today.
You know life is funny, we all have our ups and downs but for the most part all my family and friends have a pretty good life.  We have a roof over our heads and food on the table.  Yes we dream of doing some things that we may not ever get to do, but that is what dreams are for aren’t they?  Eventually most of us will get to live those dreams, whether they be to travel somewhere exotic or to take that course we have always wanted to.

There are also a lot of people in this world who because of circumstances will never be able to experience their dreams unless we help them!

Most people who know me know that one of the most important things in my life is the 24 Hour Mega Swim.  An event I started 11 years ago at the Fitzroy Pool in Melbourne.  It was to raise money (just for that year) for the Go For Gold Scholarships, a program run by the MS Society of Victoria (as they were known then).  These scholarships go to people living with MS to follow a dream.

I am passionate about the scholarships because for someone with MS they can be life changing!  This 1 year of the 24 Hour Mega Swim has gone on to become 11 years and not just 1 swim now but about 38 swims around the country as well as $3.2 million raised, over $1.35 million in scholarships given out and the rest spent through a Financial Assistance program and programs for people with MS.

On August the 14th this year I had the privilege of handing out $80,000 to people living with MS so that they can follow their dreams!  This was just the Victorian winners and this is what all the hard work during the year is about. 

There were so many different dreams; Prue who wants to start an online business and help employ others with MS, Clara an amazing cellist who because of her MS needs to modify how she plays, Paula, Kate and Catherine who want to create gardens at their homes to give them a special place to relax and unwind, Byron who wants to take his wife on the trip of a life time to thank her for all the caring she has done for him over the years, Ingrid who is a world class animator and wants the whole world to see her work, Anne who has just completed her first short film script and now wants to film it, Muna who wants to see her mother after 7 years because they were separated when fleeing from Zimbabwe, George who wants to create a studio where he can write, record and produce his own music and Bronwyn, now bed ridden who wants to see her only daughter get married.  These dreams are what make it all worthwhile!

So thank you to all the swimmers, volunteers and community groups who have helped make these dreams come true.  You have unequivocally “Paid it Forward”, your unselfishness in taking the time to swim, cook, volunteer and raise money has made this all happen.  You are all my very own heroes!!!

The only words to describe you all are in the words of Christopher Reeve “To the world you may be just one person, but to one person you may be the world.  Once you choose hope, anything’s possible”.

To the 23 Victorian winners anything is possible now!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Half a Century and Counting

I am still finding it hard to believe that I am now 3 days past 50!  My brain honestly still thinks I am in my 20’s, my body definitely knows that I am not!  But who am I to argue with my brain.

My birthday celebrations seemed to have carried on for just over a week, starting with a lunch at Guy Grossi’s Florentino’s in Melbourne with my friend Peaches.  It was a lovely lunch that went for just over 3 hours.  Then off to the Ballet at the State Theatre on Tuesday night with another friend Justine.  It was actually for both of our birthdays.  Margo (my aussie mom) came to the city Wednesday and we went for lunch with friends Laurie and Kristy on Thursday!  Then the big night Friday!

I had friends from a number of different areas in my life, swimming, rowing, MS and family.  I was really looking forward to all of them meeting each other, so to help them connect I came up with name tags and how I knew them. 
There were drinks, food, cake, cards, presents and then…speeches!!  I was dragged on to a small stage where a number of poems and messages from family in Canada were read and then a couple of friends had their say.  To say I was overwhelmed is an understatement!  I am never lost for words, as most people who know me can attest to.  But on this night I was.  I thought I was prepared, I knew what I wanted to say but when it came time to say it my brain froze.  I wanted to explain how intertwined all these people were, even if they didn’t know each other.  So now through this medium I can!

It all starts with Margo, meeting her and others at the very first World Police and Fire Games in California in 1985.  Because I had met them I was able to come to Australia for a holiday and because of a number of holidays here I met my husband Russ.  Upon marrying I moved here and lived in Fitzroy where I met all my swimming friends and it was these friends, who when I was diagnosed with MS in 1998, were my rocks of support while dealing with this diagnosis.  It was because of my diagnosis that I met other people with MS and the MS staff who were there at the party.  And because of my MS diagnosis I was asked by the Paralympic Committee to take up rowing, hence the rowing friends in attendance.  So there you have it everyone connected in some way!

My actual birthday on Saturday was filled with Skype calls and phone calls from family and friends in Canada and a day off from training.  It was lovely just to be able to spend some quality time with Margo.

But now the celebrations of that momentous day are over and life returns to normal.  But I reflect on all the people who helped me celebrate and they are all people who play an important role in my life.  I feel very blessed to have them all for friends.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said “ The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, nor the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship; it’s the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when he discovers that someone else believes in him and is willing to trust him with his friend.”

Thank you all for a magnificent first 50 years and I look forward to the next 50!