Olympians and Australian Paddle Community Fundraise in Support of Bushfire Appeal

Olympian and firefighter Alyssa Bull, Paramedic Jo Brigden-Jones and Jessica Fox Call for Support of Athlete Commission Fundraiser for Australian Red Cross

In the eye of Australia’s devastating bushfire situation, Paddle Australia’s Athlete Commission and the Australia Paddle Team have thrown their support behind a fundraiser for the Australian Red Cross Bushfire Disaster and Recovery Appeal and have set up a ‘GoFundMe’ fundraising page to raise funds for the affected communities.

Paddle Australia athletes and staff have put in donations with the athletes also using their national and international networks to further fundraise over the next few weeks and leading into Olympic and Paralympic national selection trials. See the GoFundMe page here: http://bit.ly/AusPaddleBushFireAppeal

“We are devastated seeing areas of our beautiful country being destroyed by fires. We all want to support those affected in any way we can and Paddle Australia athletes raising funds for the Australian Redcross Bushfire relief is a small way our paddling community can help those in need right now,” Jaime Roberts, Vice Chair Athlete Commission said about the motivation to launch the fundraiser.

“We will use our upcoming racing to help promote further donations to the Australian Redcross and other charities to help in Bushfire relief and hope we can make a valuable contribution to our towns and communities that need it most,” Roberts added.

The Australian Paddle Team has a close and personal connection to the emergency services involved in battling the blazes around the country and supporting the communities in need with canoe sprint Olympian Alyssa Bull a professional firefighter with the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) and fellow canoe sprint Olympian Jo Brigden-Jones a paramedic at NSW Ambulance, when they are not training for their Tokyo 2020 campaign.

Not only do Bull and Brigden-Jones know first-hand what is involved in all the efforts currently invested by Australian emergency services, but with one out of three Australians affected by the bushfires, they also have their personal experiences that led to the fundraising initiative.

“I believe it’s important for our athlete group to help fundraise for our Australian communities who have been affected by the horrendous bushfires,” Jo Brigden-Jones said.

“For me personally, many of my family members and friends have been impacted by the bushfires so far. My cousin stayed to fight for his family’s home in Batemans Bay, the fire reached their back fence and he managed to put the fire out. My Aunt and Uncle had to evacuate their home in the Kangaroo Valley as the fire got within 2km of their home. My friend was due to get married in the Kangaroo Valley last week, but unfortunately the wedding venue succumbed to the fires and they had to reorganise a wedding in three days. My paramedic friend lost his entire home in Batlow,” Jo Brigden-Jones described her personally connection to the disaster.

“The NSW Ambulance service has played a big role in keeping the community safe during these fires. As a paramedic, I am part of a big family of paramedics who always look out for each other and I am proud of my colleagues who have been working tirelessly in the fire affected areas, caring for the firefighters and public who need our assistance,” Brigden-Jones added about the efforts of her colleagues.

Jo Brigden-Jones with Paramedics Patting Dog last week – photo supplied

Alyssa Bull
graduated from Queensland Combined Emergency Services Academy in 2017 and has been working for QFES ever since and like Brigden-Jones knows exactly what goes into the super human efforts of the emergency services, who have and continue to invest endless hours into saving lives and communities.

“I understand the hot hard work that is involved with fighting bush fires. Those that have been working endless hours since September, when the fire season seemed to start, are doing a tremendous job. Being away from their families and most of them being away from their jobs while volunteering their time, we cannot thank them enough,” Alyssa Bull said.

“The fires have been ruthless causing destruction to everything in their path. However, once they’ve passed the next challenge is to rebuild. These affected communities need our support now but they will also need continued support to get back on their feet once the fires have gone.”

“It is amazing to see the amount of support and donations coming from everybody across Australia and even internationally. As an athlete, I know it’s hard to even just pay bills with what we earn. It’s so heart-warming to still see so many Aussies, even those that haven’t been directly affected, trying to help in any way that they can,” Bull added.

Alyssa Bull with colleague – photo supplied

Australian Paddle Team’s dual Olympian Jessica Fox is also behind the team fundraiser after already fundraising over $3000 for the NSW RFS at the end of last year with handmade Christmas cards.

“It’s a devastating time in Australia and with my cards for charity over Christmas I thought it was a unique way to try do some fundraising. And while it took a lot of time to handprint over 200 cards it was a great cause and I enjoyed it and was so proud of my community for getting behind it and together we raised 3100$ for the RFS. Since then the fires have escalated and more lives, houses and wildlife have been lost and the paddle Australia community and even international paddlers can really come together to make a difference with this fundraiser,” Fox said.

Fox hand-delivered her donation cheque to the Glenbrook/Lapstone Rural Fire Brigade in December and training at the Penrith Whitewater Stadium, which is located at the bottom of the Blue Mountains, Fox and other Australian Paddle Team athletes have been reminded on a daily basis of the fires with smoke a frequent occurrence over the last few weeks.

Jessica Fox handing over her December fundraiser cheque

“I fully support the initiative shown by our Athlete’s Commission in setting up this fundraiser. With fires still burning, the catastrophe is continuing to unfold with devastating effect. The compassion shown by our top athletes is indicative of the sense of community within paddling and I know that the fundraiser will be generously supported,” Paddle Australia President Andrea McQuitty said in support of the fundraising initiative.

Fundraising support is also coming from other parts of the paddling community with Paddle South Australia collecting food donations over the weekend at their Canoe Sprint State Championships for Foodbank South Australia and in support of the Kangaroo Island devastation.

Paddle Australia will also continue to support the local communities along the South Coast with the 2020 Ocean Racing Championships “The 2020 Makai Cup” to take place in Ulladulla and with a lot of paddlers already signed up to travel to the South Coast in the spirit of the #gowithemptyeskies campaign. Event website: http://www.makaipaddlers.com

Donations to the Paddle Australia Athlete Commission Bushfire Appeal can be made here: http://bit.ly/AusPaddleBushFireAppeal

Any donation will help make an impact to those directly affected and who are fighting the Bushfires around our great country with donations 100% tax deductible.

Follow the @auspaddleteam on facebook and Instagram for further activities around this fundraiser: www.facebook.com/auspaddleteam and www.instagram.com/auspaddleteam

Further information about the fundraiser via GoFundMe: http://bit.ly/AusPaddleBushFireAppeal

Paddle Australia’s Athlete Commission and the Australian Paddle Team are organising this fundraising appeal on behalf of Australian Red Cross.  Donations are 100% tax deductible.

Any donation will help make an impact to those directly affected and who are fighting the Bushfires around our great country.

More information about the Australian Red Cross: Your donation to Red Cross Disaster Relief and Recovery helps our emergency teams to do their work – including the bushfires we’re currently seeing across NSW, Qld and SA, and disasters yet to come. It enables us to give people the support they need in disasters: whether that’s help to prepare, a safe place to take shelter, psychological first aid, information, and practical support through the months and even years it can take to recover. For more: https://bit.ly/332ZtBY