01/04/2010 - 00:00

Red Sky Ride aiming for blue sky

01/04/2010 - 00:00

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WHEN both Deb Macksy and Kim Gilbert lost relatives to cancer in 2007, the business owners felt compelled to ensure the survival of struggling SolarisCare Foundation, which had helped their families cope with the disease.

WHEN both Deb Macksy and Kim Gilbert lost relatives to cancer in 2007, the business owners felt compelled to ensure the survival of struggling SolarisCare Foundation, which had helped their families cope with the disease.

At the time, SolarisCare received no government funding and a two-year initial corporate partnership had ended.

“So consideration was being given to cease the services,” Ms Macksy told WA Business News.

Both novice cyclists, Ms Macksy and Mr Gilbert proposed a capital-raising plan to SolarisCare – the Red Sky Ride, a 900-kiliometre endurance cycling race for 22 riders over seven days from Perth through Harvey to York, and back to Perth.

Unfortunately, the foundation’s board was initially hesitant to embrace the idea.

Founded in September 2001 by David Joske, head of the Department of Haematology at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, SolarisCare operates a free service that provides support to cancer sufferers, their families and carers in Western Australia.

Mr Gilbert, director at Zenith Insurance Services, said he was grateful for the services provided during his niece’s cancer treatment, particularly the tools to cope with the emotional and physical side effects of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery.

Ms Macksy, owner of injury-risk management firm Aurenda, said she wanted services to continue at SolarisCare’s two Perth centres.

In a bid to save SolarisCare from closure, Ms Macksy and Mr Gilbert met with the not for profit’s board to pitch the Red Sky Ride initiative.

“Predominantly, our biggest hurdle was convincing SolarisCare that we were a legitimate, professional group that wanted to help people with cancer and were not going to turn into yahoos bringing their name and reputation into disrepute,” Ms Macksy said.

To do this took several meetings for both Ms Macksy and Mr Gilbert to outline how successful their own businesses were, until the SolarisCare board agreed to the initiative.

As a test case, the pair first organised a small cycling race for Nulsen Haven with eight riders, which raised $150,000 for the not-for-profit organisation.

Using that experience, they began sourcing riders for Red Sky Ride by tapping into clients from their own businesses.

In the first year, corporate teams were comprised solely from Zenith Insurance and Aurenda clients, raising $150,000, which was enough to keep SolarisCare’s doors open for another year.

Ms Macksy said the model to raise funds was low-risk and simple.

Each rider pays a $1,500 entry fee, which covers set costs like accommodation, food, cycling gear, and insurance, and commits to raising at least $5,000 through sponsorship.

If a rider was unable to reach the target, they were able to participate in other corporate events to assist their fundraising.

“We had to establish a group of riders with training, coaching and fitness advice for them, as well as the weekly rides,” Ms Macksy said.

“The logistics of riding outfits, tracksuits, accommodation, food, safety, insurance, team sponsorship, fundraising activities, support vehicles and communication with riders, sponsors, volunteers and the communities we ride through, all had to be established.”

This was achieved through project planning every component of the ride, as well as regularly reassessing and re-evaluating each step until the fundraiser came to fruition.

Through word of mouth, SolarisCare has now grown to provide services to 600 people per month through St John of God Subiaco alone, and in 2008 the Red Sky Ride was the primary source of funding.

Mr Gilbert and Ms Macksy have raised $450,000 in the ride’s first two years, and are on track for $750,000 over three years at the completion of the this year’s ride. Their commitment to SolarisCare has been to raise $1 million over five years.

 

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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