This year we celebrate 10 fabulous years of the iconic Marilyn Jetty Swim. Our Marilyns first took to the seas in 2014, and, since then the event has grown into an iconic annual event which to date has raised an incredible $820,000. We take a look back at how it all began and what this incredible event has achieved over the past 10 years.
Like so many others, founding Marilyn Sarah Tinney, first turned to fundraising for Cancer Council SA in 2006 when she found out that her mother, who lived in the US, was diagnosed with uterine cancer. From the first day of her mother’s diagnosis, Sarah pledged to help raise money to cure cancer in her honour.
“I felt helpless because I was so far away, so fundraising was my way to support her from across the globe. After she passed away in 2007, supporting people impacted by cancer became even more important to me,” Sarah said.
Sarah said the idea for the Marilyn Jetty Swim started as a light-hearted conversation with some of the women at the Brighton Surf Lifesaving Club who suggested she take part in the Channel 7 Brighton Jetty Classic—South Australia’s largest open water swim—in the name of fundraising.
“They knew I was passionate about supporting Cancer Council SA and suggested I take part in the swim all in the name of fundraising,” she said.
“I’m not athletic but agreed to do a swim out to the jetty with a floaty on two conditions—I’d make it comical by dressing like one of the most iconic women to grace our screens and I’d be joined by lookalike decoys so people couldn’t identify me swimming!”
A handshake sealed the deal and the Marilyn Jetty Swim was born.
“It was only months later, while feeling reluctant, that I called my friend with the intention of pulling out of the stunt. When she told me the shocking news that she’d just been diagnosed with breast cancer and I knew there was no turning back,” Sarah said.
That first event saw 50 Marilyns participate and raise over $26,500. Since then the swim has grown year on year, with the 10th anniversary in 2023 set to be the Marilyn’s biggest year yet.
The event is now an iconic part of the annual Channel 7 Brighton Jetty Classic which sees over 300 South Australians swim or paddle 400 metres around Brighton Jetty—dressed head to toe as 50’s icon Marilyn Monroe.
The blonde bombshells work tirelessly in the lead up to February every year, holding cinema nights, sausage sizzles, high teas and pamper events, as well as raffles, casual days and lunch tours—whatever they can to raise funds.
“Each year we have a fabulous time knowing that we’re making a big difference. It’s really quite spectacular to see more than 300 Marilyn lookalikes plunge into the ocean, paddling around the Brighton Jetty,” Sarah said.
“With every fundraising event I’ve done, particularly the Marilyn Jetty Swim, my mum is in my heart. I know I’m doing something to help beat cancer in her honour and it’s given me incredible empowerment to turn my grief into action.”
Here’s a snapshot of the Marilyn Jetty Swim’s 10-year history:
2014 – The Marilyn Jetty Swim was born and saw 50 Marilyns participate and raise over $26,500.
2015 – In the second year of the Marilyn Jetty Swim, more people put their hands up to don a blonde wig and red lippy with 92 Marilyns participating and raising over $36,000.
2016 – Our Marilyns participated in the Prospect Touriffic Tour, as part of the Tour Down Under, playing the Ukele on stage. At this year’s swim, 105 Marilyns took part and raised over $54,000.
2017 – The Marilyn Jetty Swim won the Community Event of the Year for City of Holdfast Bay award as part of the Australia Day awards. 141 Marilyns participated in this year’s event and raised over $97,000.
2018 – 100 fabulous Marilyns took part in this years Marilyn Jetty Swim and raised over $74,000.
2019 – With our first attempt at the Guinness World Record of the largest gathering of people dressed as Marilyn Monroe, came a wave of new Marilyns. Unfortunately, the World Record attempt was unsuccessful due to a technicality, but all was not lost as 219 Marilyns participated and raised $100,000 for Cancer Council SA.
2020 – Our Marilyns celebrated raising half a million dollars for Cancer Council SA since 2014 and won the Guinness World Record for the largest gathering of people dressed as Marilyn Monroe in one location, with 254 Marilyns and over $101,000 raised that year.
2021 – Marilyn Jetty Swim founder Sarah Tinney is one of four people nominated for an Australian of the Year Local Hero award in South Australia for her role in raising funds to support South Australians impacted by cancer.
The Marilyn Jetty Swim also won the Community Event of the Year for City of Holdfast Bay award for the second time and received a special commendation at the Australia Day awards held at Government House for Community Event of the Year.
The 2021 Marilyn Jetty Swim is our most successful to date, with 307 Marilyns participating and raising over $169,000.
2022 – Despite tight COVID-19 restrictions, 305 masked-up Marilyns safely flocked to Brighton Jetty and raised over $161,000. BBC’s Outlook Program in London profiled the incredible Marilyn sisterhood on a global scale and interviewed our event founder, Sarah Tinney. You can watch the interview here and listen here.
This year, we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Marilyn Jetty Swim on Sunday 5 February with the blonde bombshells planning to raise $185,000 to reach a huge fundraising milestone of $1 million raised over the past decade.
To learn more, donate and support the bold, fabulous South Australians taking part in the Marilyn Jetty Swim visit themarilyns.org