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Stewart set off in April to kayak a massive 630 kilometres across the Murray River, all while raising vital funds for South Australians impacted by cancer. Inspired by his family’s own cancer experience, he raised over $10,600 for vital cancer research.  

Stewart has distant memories of both his grandmothers dying of lung cancer when he was a child. While his parents did their best to shield him from most of it, he still remembers the hospital and the sadness of it all.

Now as a father of two, he’s recently supported both his parents through their own cancer experiences. His mother with breast cancer and his father with bladder cancer.

“When my grandmothers were sick it felt like it was just about monitoring them dying – it felt so hopeless, there was nothing they could do. Whereas with my parents it just felt like whatever battle was presented, there was some way to treat it,” Stewart says.

“Thanks to developments over the last 30 years, I get to have my parents around and my kids get to have their grandparents. My childhood memories are my grandmothers passing away but my kids won’t have the same memories as me and my parents get to live a better life.”

Stewart and his parents

For many years, Stewart has had big ideas about taking on a physical challenge. He’d come up with a couple of ideas, but it had never been the right time. After both of his parents had recovered, the idea of this trip of a lifetime came up again. But he decided if he was going to do it, he wanted it to make a difference.

So he set up a Do It For Cancer fundraising page, bought a kayak and told his friends and family what he was going to do. He would kayak 630 kilometres down the Murray River. There was just one small hurdle… he had never kayaked before.

“It wasn’t until I’d bought the kayak, put it in the water and sat in it that I realised I had no idea what I was doing. I thought it was as easy as jumping in the water and paddling but it really wasn’t,” Stewart says.

After eight months of training, kayaking in different weather conditions, watching YouTube videos and reaching out to online communities for advice, he had built his confidence in the water.

On 9 April 2023, Stewart began a 15-day trip down the South Australian leg of the Murray River, from the Victorian border to the Murray Mouth. By the end of the trip, he was kayaking up to 60 kilometres a day.

Stewart kayaking along the river Murray

“It was completely life changing for me, I would never have appreciated how much I loved it when I started,” Stewart says.

“At the start of the trip I was really worried about the distance, but by the end of it I could do 13 hours in the kayak without stopping and physically I was fine. I think in the end I was more mentally exhausted.”

“I’ve got a new appreciation for the river. Some nights the darkness was incredible, I couldn’t even see my feet it was so dark, but the stars were so amazing.”

An orange tent on a river bank

“One of the best feelings I had was that I had so much love and support throughout the whole trip. People were reaching out, texting me and calling me. Having all these people cheering for you – I’ve never had a feeling like that in my life.”

For others who are thinking about challenging themselves to fundraise, Stewart’s tip is to open yourself up to people by telling your story. “Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask – I run a business and I reached out to people that I work with professionally but don’t know personally and was just a bit vulnerable about it. It was amazing how often people came back with their own story.”

If you’ve been inspired by the Stewart’s incredible fundraising, you can register to hold your own Do It For Cancer fundraiser – from a garage sale to a marathon, every dollar raised helps reduce the rate and impact of cancer for all South Australians.

Together, let’s make a difference and Do It For Cancer!

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