Record breaking success

It was passion, drive and sheer determination that spurred the 22 members of the Boating for Brains dragon boat crew on their 576km journey, which has raised an incredible $213,000-and-counting for the Neurology Department at The Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) and saw them enter the record books.

Not only did the crew members, who paddled for five 12-hour days along the Murray River from Yarrawonga to Swan Hill, exceed their $200,000 fundraising target, they broke a Guinness World Record in the process.

After their daughters Clementine Evans (five) and Olivia Christen (six) received life changing treatment from the Neurology team at RCH, fathers Alex and Peter were inspired to take on the physical and fundraising challenge.

They recruited a crew which included a further two parents of children who have undergone major neurosurgery at the hospital, as well as family, friends and dragon boat club members. The mixed crew was gathered from around Australia and beyond, with one paddler based in Western Australia, two in Queensland, one in NSW and another in Taiwan, in addition to those living in Victoria.
Samir Waters jumped at the chance to be involved when Peter Christen mentioned to him at work, he wanted to break a dragon boat world record and raise money and awareness for RCH.

“Peter said there might be some spare spots on the dragon boat, if I was keen. I was immediately inspired to do my part for such a good cause. One thing I forgot to ask was what a dragon boat was,” said Samir.

“Training was tough, what with learning a new skill and getting fit – very fit. Early mornings with 3am starts to get a session in before work and after work again. I got a boost of motivation a couple of months out when I got the chance to visit the RCH and meet some of the parents, patients and doctors. I realised training was the least I could do to help.”

Fellow crew member Matthew Wood’s inspiration for joining the team was extremely close to his heart; his eldest son Flynn who is now 18 has been under the care of Neurologist Dr Simon Harvey since he was five.

“In 2017, Flynn underwent two 10-hour brain operations to remove an area of his brain that was causing his seizures. He was fortunate to have the world’s best brain surgeon Wirginia Maixner perform the surgery. Flynn has been seizure free for 16 months post-surgery and has been able to gain his learners permit to drive a car,” said Matthew.

A mammoth fundraising effort was behind the incredible total, with corporate sponsorship, gingerbread for sale via workplaces and an awe-inspiring launch party with a raffle and silent auction, all contributing to the impressive fundraising total.

A huge number of supporters were also behind the boating success, with the paddlers assisted by a 19-strong support crew led by Jenny McIntosh, mother of Winston (10) who had major neurosurgery last year. This included family, friends and representatives from the RCH who travelled along the journey with them and more hands providing back-up on land ensuring the team were well fed, watered and free of aches and pains along the arduous journey.

“The experience was incredible, exhausting and fulfilling. I have not met a better, more committed group of parents, friends and experienced dragon boat people. Our sacrifice to train for 12 months and then paddle the distance to break the world record and raise over $200,000 is legendary,” said Matthew.

“The way such a disparate group of people came together was amazing. If we hadn’t had such a strong purpose, we wouldn’t have made it,” added paddler Andrew McPhee, who helped co-ordinate the crew’s training regime.

The money raised will support a specialised neuroscientist within Neurology for the management of brain scans of children with epilepsy, brain tumours, stroke and malformations.

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