A 1000km Ride To Raise Funds For Leukaemia

by Amy in News

North Bondi Surf Lifesaving Club member Nigel Harbach has inspired a friend to ride 1000km on a paddleboard as a way of raising funds for his leukaemia treatment.

After hearing about Harbach’s challenges with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) treatment, friend Andy Owen started planning this epic paddleboarding journey from the North Bondi club to the Sunshine Coast.

Owen hopes to raise $100 per kilometre and donate the funds to people affected by leukaemia and associated blood disorders, including Harbach and the Leukaemia Foundation.

“The main aim for this paddle is to help Nigel get back on his feet and all the while raising money and awareness for people like Nigel who have been afflicted by Leukaemia and other blood disease,” the Indiegogo fundraising page says.

After being diagnosed with MDS, Harbach underwent a range of medical procedures that included a failed bone marrow transplant. The costs meant he had to sell his home in Bondi and move back to Western Australia with his family. He has just undergone a second transplant as part of his treatment.

During the early stages of Harbach’s diagnosis, Owen was overseas. But wanting to do something for his friend, he returned and started organising his paddleboard as a way to support Harbach and others.

The timing was significant for more than one reason too: as Owen’s plans were rolled out another North Bondi SLSC member – nipper Xavier Slezak – was also diagnosed with leukaemia.

It seems it is in Owen’s nature to give as much as he can, in any way that he can, particularly in light of what Harbach says about him.

“I’ve known Andy for about 16 years,’’ he says in an interview with The Daily Telegraph.

“We’ve developed a bond over the years and he’s just one of those guys that keeps on giving.”

Owen has also invited anyone with a surfboard, paddleboard or kneeboard to join him anywhere along the way.

He has already inspired a smaller, two-day paddle from Thirroul to North Bondi, with the Thirroul Paddlers rallying together to raise funds and see Owen off at the start of his journey on 22nd June 2014.

“After hearing about Andy’s mission, I wanted to do something to help,’’ Stanwell Park lifeguard and Thirroul Paddler Chanan Clark has told local media.

Clark and the Thirroul Paddlers raised $12,000 during their 70km surf to North Bondi, kickstarting the funding for Owen, who left the club later that day with $15,000 raised.

‘‘We were really proud and very happy to raise $12,000 of that,” Clark says.

‘‘I was also personally very happy to get to shake hands with the great man [Owen], and also Nigel, who Andy is doing the paddle for. I was really pleased that I was able to link it all together.’’

Andy Owen’s journey so far has raised $24,121 according to the Paddle for Leukaemia website, which also lists the planned stops along the way so that people really can join him to show support for this great cause.