Heaven Can Wait organisers present $38,000 to local charities

ORGANISERS of the annual Heaven Can Wait charity sailing regatta at Toronto have presented another $38,000 to charity.

The Cancer Council of NSW received $33,000, while Marine Rescue Lake Macquarie was given $5000.

That takes the total raised over the 10 years of the event to $250,000.

That’s some serious coin for a bunch of mostly knock-about sailors who clearly enjoy a laugh and messing about in boats.

Take the event founder, Shaun Lewicki, who began his presentation speech at Royal Motor Yacht Club, Toronto, on Wednesday morning with this:

“I’m the person you can blame for this debacle.”

The line was met with laughter all round.

But the self-effacing humour in no way diminished the significance of what Mr Lewicki and his colleagues at the club had achieved over the decade.

Cancer Council Hunter regional manager Shayne Connell put it best when he said: “What the Heaven Can Wait event is doing is an incredible thing. You are all rock stars at the Cancer Council.”

Mr Connell said money raised for the Cancer Council by the event was used to fund practical domestic support services for local cancer patients.

“Some 176 patients in the last 18 months have had services that are directly supported by Heaven Can Wait,” he said.

Mr Lewicki established the event after a battle with cancer. The idea initially was to promote Lake Macquarie’s aquatic appeal, and to raise a few quid for the Cancer Council on the side.

But the sailing community and club embraced the cause, and their generosity has grown every year.

Mr Lewicki said the 24-hour event on Lake Macquarie was challenging for all sailors, and therein lies its appeal.

“After you finish the event you find yourself saying ‘I’m not doing that again!’. But an hour later, after a meal, you’re sitting down in the club with friends planning the next one,” Mr Lewicki said.

New boats enter the event every year, and even a catamaran took part in this year’s regatta, he said.

No matter what type or size of vessel in the race, all participants shared a common bond, he said.

“Anyone who has experienced midnight on Lake Macquarie knows it’s a wonderful thing.”

Mr Lewicki thanked Lake Macquarie MP Greg Piper for a recent speech the local member made in State Parliament praising the event, organisers and competitors.

“Thank-you Greg for your praise. It’s nice to get feedback from a higher source than someone standing at the bar,” Mr Lewicki joked.

Mr Piper surprised the Cancer Council by presenting his own personal cheque for $500 to Mr Connell during the function.

Lake Macquarie MP Greg Piper surprises the Cancer Council.

Vice-commodore Mel Steiner said Heaven Can Wait continues to grow and exceed expectations.

Heaven Can Wait is now part of Lakefest – a week-long celebration of all things aquatic on Lake Macquarie – which also raised money for the Cancer Council.

Mr Steiner said proceeds from this year’s Lakefest meant the Cancer Council received a total of almost $50,000 from the week’s activities.