By Mitchell Clarke
Leah Bryant believes her husband Craig has been remembered in the most incredible of ways.
With the support of Craig’s Crew with FightMND and a long list of sporting clubs including the Pakenham Warriors Basketball Club, Pakenham Football and Netball Club and Dandenong Rangers Basketball Club, Ms Bryant has pulled off an event which will directly contribute to funding research to cure the cruelties of motor-neurone disease.
“People know Craig, they’re talking about him, I’m just so proud of what we have created,” Leah said.
“He’d be blown away, he’d be incredibly proud. It gives my two sons something to be proud of as well.”
While the official donation tally is still being calculated, Leah is confident they’ve raised more than twice as much as they did last year.
“Last year we raised $19,942, so this year I was hoping to achieve over $20,000,” Leah said.
“This has gone just beyond my wildest expectations. I really don’t know how to put what I’m feeling into words.
“Events like this are giving a lot of hope to people. There are so many people that are diagnosed with this disease that have no hope. I’m hoping events like this are bringing hope with it.”
The event was in honour of Leah’s husband Craig Bryant who passed away from the disease eight years ago.
Fighting the good fight, Leah has since dedicated her life to the cause and on this occasion, rallied the community together for their biggest event yet.
180 people booked tickets for the day while about 1000 people turned up on the day to show their support.
A spokesperson from FightMND congratulated Leah and all those involved in the day.
“On behalf of FightMND, we would like to sincerely thank Craig’s Crew and the Pakenham community for their fantastic fundraising efforts for the Pakenham Big Freeze,” they said.
“The funds raised are so vital in allowing us to continue to fund MND research in Australia and internationally.
“Without the support of communities and fundraising events like this one, we would not be able to have impact we are having today.”
Arguably the highlight of the day, some of Cardinia’s most recognised people donned wacky costumes and braved icy cold conditions to take part in the customary slide event.
Among the 18 sliders were MP Jason Wood, Cardinia Shire Council’s Mayor Graeme Moore and Councillor Brett Owen, Pakenham Football Club President Travis Hamilton and Upper Beaconsfield CFA Captain Ian Pinney.
MP Jason Wood wore a suit and was left speechless, albeit only for about a minute, he said the conditions were much colder than he initially anticipated.
“As soon as you get out, your breath is gone and you can’t talk, your body is so shaken up it takes a while to get your senses back,” Mr Wood said.
Once finally recovering his breath, the MP said that people like Leah do an incredible job in bringing awareness in the community.
“The medical research is well and truly underway and this is being led by the inspirational people like Leah and Craig’s Crew,” Mr Wood said.
“What Leah has done really well is by raising awareness and bringing the issue back to the local community so everyone can get behind it.”
Councillor Brett Owen was asked to take part in the event by his son’s team at the Beacy Bandits Basketball Club.
“They asked me to represent them, so I thought it was fitting to go down the slide wearing their uniform,” Mr Owen said.
“I couldn’t breathe coming out of that (ice water), I struggled to breath for about 30 seconds after.
“But it’s just such a worthy cause and I’m so privileged to be a part of the day, the Bryant family is amazing and their story is so touching. I hope this becomes an annual event.”
His colleague Mayor Graeme Moore wanted to dress up as an old fashioned Mayor complete with a bow tie and hat, but when he looked in the mirror, he realised he looked more like the banker from Monopoly.
“I have had a lot of friends affected by this horrible slow death,” Mr Moore said.
“A cure would be fantastic.”
Working towards that cure, Leah has already started looking into next year’s event, with six tables and many individual people already wanting to book tickets for next year.
“We had so many generous community donations, people were just coming to me on the day and donating things because they wanted to be a part of this,” Leah said.
“I just feel so overwhelmed by the generosity from the community and the way they’ve embraced this. I get teary every time.
“It grew from something small among family and friends to a community embracing Craig’s Crew and their cause, next year will be huge.”
While Leah is an excellent advocate for the cause, her 11-year-old son Zach has said he can’t wait to lead the cause one day, ensuring that his father Craig’s legacy never dies.
“Something really bad happened to us. We could’ve let it consume us and be bitter with the world,” Leah said.
“Instead we chose to do something and make a difference.”