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Busy mum and business owner Michelle Gray is resolute in the belief that if you are capable of giving back, you should.
In 2014, Michelle was introduced to Smiling for Smiddy by her husband who was preparing for a cycle challenge to raise money for cancer research at Mater.
She was pregnant at the time; however, as an avid cyclist, she committed to joining a Smiling for Smiddy ride one day.
“The cause; the comradery was very appealing to me,” Michelle said.
Smiling for Smiddy is a year-round program of cycling and triathlon challenge events founded by Mark ‘Sharky’ Smoothy in honour of triathlete, and dear friend, Adam Smiddy, who passed away from an aggressive melanoma in 2006 at only 26 years of age.
Two years prior, a close work colleague of Michelle’s died at only 37 years of age of a brain tumour, after an earlier breast cancer diagnosis.
“We worked so closely together and we were a great team. She was an effervescent and a-half-glass-full kind of person,” Michelle said.
“Several days before she died Karen listed the things she hadn’t yet experienced and that included getting married and having children.
“I thought, I’m so lucky to have these things and to experience such happiness. I knew I had to do something to help others in need. It was a lightbulb moment for me,” she said.
Without hesitation Michelle signed up for the Adelaide to Uluru Smiddy ride in 2016 and she described it as “life changing”.
“The first day was pure adrenalin, the next was shock and the days following were plagued with fatigue and the thought, ‘what the heck have I done?’,” Michelle laughed.
“I had a photo of Karen on my bike. When I was feeling sore and sorry for myself I thought of her and all of the other cancer patients out there and that encouraged me further.
“I think Karen would be impressed with what I’ve achieved. She might also think I’m a little mad!”
Michelle’s dogged determination to raise funds for cancer research, resulted in $12 000 being raised for Mater Research and she has also helped to raise a further $25 000 through Smiling for Smiddy.
She said it was important to know just how the funds were making a difference in the lab.
“Meeting Professor Brian Gabrielli at Mater Research and hearing about the work that he and his team are doing into Melanoma is truly amazing,” she said.
“The researchers make themselves so accessible to supporters like me and that’s so important. You can hear firsthand the direct impact your funds make to assist them in their research.”
As the co-founder of Executive Recruitment Partners, Michelle said her philanthropic pursuits also influenced her clients.
“I work in the corporate world and I’m of the belief that if you are capable of supporting a cause, then you really should; it’s your duty to give back,” she said.
“When dealing with company CEOs I explain that the benefits of philanthropy are multifaceted; it benefits not only the charity, but it also engages their teams in a greater purpose, a positive sense of doing something good and stronger community engagement.”
While Michelle is modest in her achievements, both professionally and personally, she said it was important to have a female role model to look up to, no matter the age.
“For me, Sister Angela Mary Doyle has left a lasting impression on me. Sister was, and still is, a humble and determined woman and she has done so much for patients at Mater and the broader community.
“Another inspiring lady was my Nana Keenan who passed away when I was 21. She was incredibly community focussed and supported many people from all walks of life, in so many ways.
“I think we can all learn so much from these inspirational women in our lives,” she said.
To find out more about Smiling for Smiddy, click here.
Photo captions (top): Michelle relieved to reach her destination in the Adelaide to Uluru Smiddy ride in 2016
(bottom): Michelle with close friend Karen