Olympians Make a Splash to Support Special Olympians

4th November 2014

By Peter Hadfield

Fundraising from a sporting event can be difficult. The effort to create an event in the first place can be daunting. Gaining the approvals required, insurance, sourcing officials as well as providing safety and medical support can be time consuming and sometimes expensive. Generating fundraising for a worthy cause around an event increases the workload and sometimes the financial result achieved does not always reflect a good return on the investment of time and effort.

I have been involved in creating a few charity events based on sport which have achieved an excellent result for the charities involved.

Sixteen years ago, former Wallabies Captain Phil Kearns asked me to set up an event to assist the Humpty Dumpty Foundation – a charity which initially provided hospital equipment to the children’s ward at Royal North Shore Hospital but has developed to now supply equipment to over 200 hospitals throughout Australia. The ‘Balmoral Burn’ was created - a 420m race up on of the steepest roads in Sydney, Awaba St in Balmoral.

The key to financial success of any charity event based on sport is to truly engage the corporate sector.

In Year 1 of the Burn, six companies agreed to be involved and the proceeds generated for the Humpty Dumpty Foundation was $60,000. 15 years later and there are around 100 corporate teams  involved in the Burn. The Humpty Dumpty Foundation now generates over $2 million each year from the event and the associated fundraising dinner, which is the best pre-race carbo load event in town.

I used the template developed for the Burn to create an event around swimming this year – ‘The Special Olympics Splash’, a fundraising event for Special Olympics Australia and an organisation I have had a strong association with for a number of years. Special Olympics helps young Australians with an intellectual disability to participate and compete in sporting activities. Currently these programs involve 6,500 athletes and 1,000 volunteers across 16 sports.

The Splash was conducted at the Olympic Pool at the Sydney Aquatics Centre and again the aim was to engage the corporate sector to create a successful event both in execution and dollars raised.

The objective was to provide a re-enactment of the atmosphere at the Sydney Olympic Games swimming program. The Olympic Pool was set up in identical format as it was for the 2000 Games, including Olympic medal dais and big screen. Officials from Swimming NSW presided over the meet adding to the authenticity.

To further add to the experience Olympic swimmers Geoff Huegill, Chris Fydler, Matt Dunn and Craig Stevens were joined by Glasgow Commonwealth Games 800m freestyle finalist Laura Crockart as well as Olympians Kate Hollywood from Hockey and Taryn Woods and Johnno Cotterill from Water Polo to swim at the meet.

The highlight of the night was the 8 x 50m freestyle team challenge between the Olympians and a team of Special Olympics Swimmers.

Ten corporate teams - PwC, Westpac, McGrathNicol, Adpost, The Blue Dolphins, Smartline, Frasers Property, Built, Richard Crookes Constructions and Impact were involved in the first Splash, each entering eight person teams in an 800m freestyle relay.

The Splash created a nett profit of over $50,000 in its first year of operation.

The catalyst for the Splash’s financial success was that all of the competing companies engaged their staff to fundraise to support their eight swimmers and Special Olympics Australia.

PwC Partner Cassandra Michie said “PwC was thrilled to be a part of the inaugural Special Olympics Australia Splash event. Getting involved provided our people with a great opportunity to engage with one another and to get behind a very worthy cause.”

The beauty of the Splash is that the logistics are very simple which keeps the costs and the level of organisational effort low. Sydney Aquatic Centre provided the venue and support staff to set up the event, their preferred caterers provided a successful after party and Swimming NSW provided all of the officials.  

The event was so successful in its first year, a date has already been locked in for next year’s event at the Sydney Aquatic Centre for Wednesday 16 September 2015.

I would encourage all companies to get involved in the 2015 Special Olympics Splash. It will provide great benefits to the staff of supporting companies and it will help some very special young Australians.

For any information on the Special Olympics Splash or to enter a team for 2015, please contact Fran Eustace on frane@specialolympics.com.au or call 1300 225 762   

Peter Hadfield OAM is an Olympian who Represented Australia in two Olympic Games and two Commonwealth Games, winning a Commonwealth Games Silver medal behind Olympic Champion and World Record Holder Daley Thompson. As well as working as a TV and radio commentator and motivational speaker, Peter provides training programs for sporting teams and individuals.