December 17, 2019

 Geelong’s Massive Murray Paddle adventurer kayaks 400km for Hope

Before he started training for the Massive Murray Paddle, John Hoiles had never set foot in a kayak.

After training along the Barwon River for almost a year, Mr Hoiles and friend Tony Martin embarked on an epic 400km journey in a two-man kayak, along the Murray River from Yarrawonga to Swan Hill.

The friends joined about 500 people for the marathon five-day paddle last month, raising vital funds along the way to assist local charities or community-driven programs.

Before he left, Mr Hoiles set up a Go Fund Me page and raised $3500 for Geelong-based, not-for-profit, Hope Bereavement Care (Hope). Mr Martin raised nearly $2000 for Geelong charity, The Outpost.

Mr Hoiles’ wife Debbie raised more than $600 of the total donation for Hope, by knitting babies’ beanies and selling them to family and friends as gifts.

Mrs Hoiles and Tony’s partner Mandy supported the pair on their Murray River adventure.

“They did a fantastic job supporting us through the paddle, navigating the back country roads to supply us with food, water and morale, meeting us at checkpoints and at the end of the day,” Mr Holies said.

Established in 1985, Hope is a community-driven organisation which offers free information, support and counselling when grieving the death of a child, the sudden and unexpected death of an adult and those experiencing the loss after suicide.

“I changed jobs at the start of this year and wanted a challenge, so I took it on,” Mr Hoiles said. I’m getting older, I’m nearly 60 so I just wanted a challenge to see if I could do it. And it was a charity fundraiser so that worked out well,” Mr Hoiles said.

Mr Hoiles admitted the event was “certainly a big step out of your comfort zone”.

“We trained for about 10 months getting ready for it. It was tough.  The first day was 95km, 11 hours. The second day was pretty much the same. It was very tiring but a good thing to do.”

“We were up at 5am to be on the river at 6.30am, to start at 7am. It was tiring but it was a good bunch of people and it’s really good to have completed it.”

Mr Hoiles hasn’t ruled out participating in a future Massive Murray Paddle, albeit as part of a relay.

“It’s a good thing to do once,” he said.

Mr Hoiles said Hope was a charity close to his heart. He said he decided to raise funds for Hope

after he and Debbie’s grandson Tully, their first grandchild, passed away in 2016.

“Hope provided support, counselling and photos and stepped in when we didn’t know what to do. This was an opportunity to give back,” he said.

“It’s one of those organisations I think that in times in need, when you need support or help, they are there.”

 Hope’s Board Chair Bernie Jenner, said “we cannot thank John enough”.

“There of are so many layers to what John has done for Hope. As Board members, it gives us hope and reminds us of why we volunteer, it promotes our service so someone who may need our support can find us and it inspires others to fundraise for us,” he said.

“At the moment, Hope needs to raise $150,000 to maintain services at their current levels. John’s money will go towards ensuring we can continue to support individuals and families that need us, so no one is alone in their grief.”

In October the organisation launched the Hope, for the Future campaign which will run until early 2020.

“A sudden and unexpected death is devastating and shocking with common responses to grief affecting cognitive, emotional, physical, behavioural and spiritual health,” said Hope’s Executive Officer Salli Hickford.

“Feelings of disbelief, guilt, loneliness, fear, anxiety and helplessness are some of the wide range of experiences felt by those bereaved. Each year we help more families, yet we receive no direct government funding, and the charities which have previously supported us are reducing their funding.”

Ms Hickford said the Hope, For The Future campaign had so far raised more than $35,000.

“With John’s help and the help of the Geelong community, we can continue to provide Hope to people who need us.”

Since October, individuals have donated over $8000 to GiveNow to support Hope and 50 per cent of funds raised have been from crowd-raisers.

John’s crowd-raiser has also inspired other people to approached Hope to fundraise for the organisation. Hope has responded by creating a Fundraising Kit, which is available from the website.

“Hope has an amazing community that have provided significant support over the years from donations of goods, time and expertise, volunteering at events and financially supporting us. We are extremely grateful for their wonderful support and contributions,” Ms Hickford said.

To donate to Hope visit www.givenow/hope or to set up a fundraiser, go to  Other giving options are available on the website or by calling Hope on 4215 3358.

 Media enquiries: Jessica Gabites – 0412 784 587 or