By Khanh Quach | Compliance Advisor (The Way Back) at Beyond Blue
Early last week, I had replied to an internal email (at Beyond Blue) and volunteered for Melbourne’s Coastrek event on Friday evening. However, I had not read the fine print. I figured it'd be for a couple hours after work but when I read the information sheet, the shift was between 6-11pm! My initial thought was “Great! This will be a loooong night”. Ah well, I was committed.
Despite the cold creeping in at sunset, the weather, which had been perfect all day, continued into the night. I arrived and followed the thumping music and the “WOOHOOOS!!!” in the distance. I signed in, got my instructions and headed to my assigned spot; holding the finish line ribbon. I shifted side to side to stay warm. Then, small dots of lights appeared in the distance. Cow bells rang loud. The WOOOHOOOs, cheering and clapping commenced in unison as trekkers slowly emerged from the dark. As they closed the gap to the finish line, individual teams, intertwined arm-in-arm, crossed the line as they started; together. I witnessed smiles, laughter, photos and joyful embraces. But I also witnessed pain and tears. Was it tears of joy for overcoming the physical and mental challenge of completing a grueling 60km trek? Or was it in memory of loved ones? Nevertheless, they had all achieved what they had trained so hard for, to finish. I couldn’t help but be immersed in the emotion.
I took my break and enjoyed a warm drink with the dedicated Beyond Blue fundraising team. Being fairly new to the Beyond Blue family, small talk ensued to know my fellow colleagues. I discovered that the majority of them had been there since the beginning. That is, up before 4am to setup the event which kicked off at 6am. Light-bulb moment. They had been woohooo’ing for 15-hours and they still had a smile on their faces! Every trekker that crossed the finish line had been walking for 15-hours!! And here I was feeling sorry for myself for a 5hr volunteering shift? I returned to my post and rang the bell louder and vowed I'll be here to cheer the last team over the finish line.
Congratulations to every trekker who participated in the event. You are all champions in my eyes and you (with the support of the generous donations), made this year's Melbourne Coastrek such a success. This extends to EVERYONE who contributed to make the event happen. A special mention to the Beyond Blue fundraising team. Your energy and friendliness definitely made me feel part of the team. :)
My brief volunteering stint for this event was a humbling experience and made me realize a small gesture can make the difference. What you may perceive as a waste of time, may just be the thing that someone else needs to make theirs worthwhile. All the inspiring trekkers I witnessed crossing the finish line ensured I will be back next year. Question is, will it be as a volunteer or a trekker...