Paralympian Carol Cooke OAM, is the founder of the MS 24-Hour Mega Swim fundraising event at the Fitzroy Pool. Celebrating its 20th year on the weekend of February 28 over 400 people will participate. Carol, the 20-year team captain of the Yarra Babes team, will participate for the last time. Teams swim in relays for 24 hours to support people living with multiple sclerosis.
Question: What is the MS 24-Hour Mega Swim?
Carol Cooke: The MS 24 Hour Mega Swim is a fun team relay event where teams have a swimmer in the water for the entire 24 hours and compete for laps swum and money raised, in support for people living with multiple sclerosis. It is one of Australia's most popular and fastest growing fundraising events, bringing communities together. People of all ages and abilities can take part in the MS 24 Hour Mega Swim with each team creating a roster to suit each swimmer. Some swim for 10 minutes, others for 4 hours! The MS 24 Hour Mega Swim is a competition with points awarded to each team; 1 point for every $10 raised (banked funds) and 1 point for every 500m swum.
Question: Can you tell us about the MS 24-Hour Mega Swim event?
Carol Cooke: I started the MS 24 Hour Mega Swim back in 2001 at the Fitzroy Pool in Victoria. I wanted to bring people together to raise funds for those living with multiple sclerosis to contribute to MS Go for Gold Scholarships Program. When I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in my 30's I was told to go home and manage my affairs. I chose to manage my MS instead and to follow and create dreams for others by founding the MS 24 Hour Mega Swim.
Question: Where does the fundraising for this event go?
Carol Cooke: Funds raised from 24 Hour Mega Swim contribute to MS Go for Gold Scholarships, Financial Assistance Programs and providing services to directly benefit those living with multiple sclerosis. The MS Go for Gold Scholarships are awarded to people living with multiple sclerosis, who wish to follow a dream. Focusing on achieving a dream is a great way to build a stronger sense of wellness, have a break from focusing on multiple sclerosis, and a fantastic opportunity to inspire others at the same time! For all participants, the scholarships provide the opportunity to significantly change lives. Whether it's being able to attend an exercise program, purchase equipment, undertake a course or travel, the scholarships are awarded to people with multiple sclerosis with a wide range of goals and dreams. Scholarships are presented in categories such as employment, education, travel, the arts, sport, music and lifestyle and wellbeing.
Question: How can Australians support your team, the Yarra Babes?
Carol Cooke: Australians can help my team, the Yarra Babes by jumping online and donate to our team here. They can also participate in the MS 24-Hour Mega Swim Fitzroy event by signing up their own team and raising much needed funds for Australians living with MS.
Question: Why is this the last time you are participating in the MS 24-Hour Mega Swim?
Carol Cooke: After 20 years it's time to move on and pass the legacy onto the next person. I have been volunteering and submitting a team for 20 years now. I'm tired and it's time for a change, I've loved every moment of being part of the MS 24-Hour Mega Swim Fitzroy events. I may in the future do another swim but not for a little while.
Question: What's the main message you hope to spread for the MS 24-Hour Mega Swim?
Carol Cooke: My main message I'd like to share, is that the MS 24-Hour Mega Swim event supports such an amazing program, the MS Go For Gold Scholarships, which is life changing for people living with MS. It's good to take part in this fun event but it's important to raise money as well.
Question: What's next, for you?
Carol Cooke: Well this year is a big one for me with the Tokyo Paralympics in August and my goal is to be on the Australian team, so lots of training for me.
But I want to be involved in other projects in the MS space but not near water for the near future!
Interview by Brooke Hunter