Big Freeze Newcastle has blown its fundraising goal out of the water after hundreds gathered at No.1 Sportsground on Saturday to watch brave Novocastrians slide into an ice-cold pool.
Big Freeze, an event started three years ago in Melbourne by AFL legend Neale Daniher, made its second appearance in Newcastle and it could not have been a more ideal winter’s day.
In all, 24 sliders made the plunge to raise money for charity Fight MND, which aims to build awareness and fund research to find effective treatments and ultimately a cure for Motor Neurone Disease.
Chris Fanning, the principal of St Mary’s Primary School at Warners Bay who was diagnosed with the disease in February, had his entire family hit the pool.
Mr Fanning, 58, has been off work since the start of the year as he battles the progressive and terminal condition.
The Fanning family, including Chris, his wife, Louise, and their three children – Angus, Gabi and Olivia all made a splash in support of Fight MND.
“It’s been very good therapy for Chris to be a participant,” Louise said on Sunday.
“I think he’s the only person with MND who’s done the slide as well, which is very momentous.”
As of Sunday, more than $53,000 had been raised by the Fanning family in a huge show of support for the school principal.
“The support from the school was amazing, they’d done a lot of fundraising at school in the two weeks leading up to the event,” she said.
“They made significant contributions to the total.
“You just realise at the end of the day how many people’s lives you touch when that sort of total comes through in just a three-week effort.
“It’s been quite overwhelming. We’ve met some fabulous people as a consequence of being part of it.”
Big Freeze Newcastle was hoping to raise $150,000 in 2018, but the total amount had pushed past $200,000 on Sunday and was expected to reach more than $210,000 after the weekend.
Event organiser, Pippa Rowntree, said “Newcastle should be very proud” for coming together and making the day the largest community-run Big Freeze fundraiser in Australia.
“People have just been beautiful in the amount of time they’ve given,” Ms Rowntree said.
“It’s a fantastic community event and the people that it’s touched is amazing.
“But the most beautiful part of being involved in this is the people we’ve met and the stories that we’ve heard.
“The people we’ve been able to help connect to other families that are going through the same thing.”
Ms Rowntree said Fight MND indicated the $200,000 raised will allow three full-time researchers to be funded for a year.
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