The Melbourne Football Club are not the only footy ‘Demons’ making a splash in the fight against MND.
While the Melbourne Demons take centre stage alongside Collingwood for the annual Queen’s Birthday Big Freeze at the MCG showpiece, a namesake in the UK is also leaning into the fight.
The Wandsworth Demons, a top-tier team in the AFL London competition, have been fundraising for FightMND since 2016 through holding their ‘Big Freeze at the ‘C’ event at Clapham Common each year.
After raising over $30,000 in the first four years, the club was determined that the global pandemic occurring around the world wasn’t going to impact their efforts in 2020 – and it didn’t despite the Big Freeze being unable to proceed as planned.
Without the fun and frivolity of fundraisers sliding into a giant pool of ice, akin to its iconic Australian ‘cousin’, the Wandsworth community had to adapt.
Through the sale of FightMND merchandise including Big Freeze beanies and SockIt2MND socks, trivia nights staged through Zoom, a bake sale, multiple ice bucket challenges, a silent half-marathon walk around London and a unique 24-hour walk on the Common, the club raised $15,000 to take their five-year tally to in excess of $45,000.
Club president Xavier Holland and his friend Danny Radis walked for 24 hours around the Common with supporters sponsoring laps, playlists and costumes, raising $5,400 on this event alone.
The catalyst for establishing the event, the only annual Big Freeze fundraiser held outside of Australia, was that members of their club community have been touched by MND including a current player whose father was diagnosed last year.
“It’s an extraordinary effort for the Demons to continue our fundraising for another year for FightMND. In an incredibly difficult time both financially and socially, it didn’t dull our enthusiasm for a cause that is so close to our club. The support our members have shown for each other has made us incredibly proud and all for such a worthy cause. Thank you to everyone who contributed, it’s been a wonderful way to bring us together in a time when community is so important to help us all get through the current global circumstances,” President Holland said.
FightMND CEO Jamie Howden commented, saying “The huge fundraising success of the ‘Big Freeze at the C’ in London over the past five years is a fantastic achievement by the organisers from the Wandsworth Demons and to all the participants involved in making it happen. Everyone at FightMND congratulates them.
“To see the iconic Big Freeze concept that began in 2015 in Australia as such a strong event in the UK makes us all feel very proud at FightMND.
“From everyone at FightMND, thanks to the Wandsworth Demons footy club, Renee and everyone that contributed in some way, your support will have a significant impact on the fight against MND.”
The team of organisers, spearheaded by Renee Frizzell, had to act quickly, and think on their feet to create a multitude of socially distanced options for the club members to engage with over a 5-week campaign. Frizzell, Holland, Phoebe Smith and vice-president Priscilla Lodge created a fitness challenge to encourage physical activity during lockdown, where 30 participants ran and walked laps of the Common and recorded their kilometres for funds. They asked for sponsorship from friends and family, as well as club sponsors and local businesses which donated prizes for their major raffle.
A complete and spirited community effort.