Jessica Fox

jessica_foxBorn in Marseille in France, Jessica moved to Australia with her family at the age of four. Both her parents competed in the sport of kayaking, and are still involved. Her mother, Myriam Jerusalmi, raced for France and won a bronze medal at the Atlanta 1996 Olympics in the same event that Jessica competed in at the London 2012 Olympics. Her father, Richard Fox, raced for Great Britain and was five-time World Champion. It was through them that Jessica discovered her love and passion for kayaking. Before that, she competed in swimming, athletics, and gymnastics. She started kayaking competitively in 2006, and has not looked back ever since! Jessica now competes in the kayak single event (K1W) and the canoe single event (C1W).

In 2011 Jess juggled her sporting commitments while finishing her HSC. She placed 1st in the state for PDHPE, achieved band 6 in all her subjects and finished with an ATAR of 99.1 and Dux of Blaxland High School.

jessica_fox_2In the lead up to the London 2012 Olympics, Jess competed at the Junior World Championships in the USA where she won three gold medals. Using this performance to fuel her, she represented Australia at the London 2012 Olympic Games and won a silver medal. She became the youngest woman in her sport to achieve such a feat.

In 2013 Jess is studying a Bachelor of Social Science (Psychology) online through Swinburne University. She is now focussed on Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games.

When approached to be a Lifestart Kayak for Kids Ambassador, Jess said, “I am extremely honoured to be named a Lifestart Kayak for Kids Ambassador. It is a great cause and while I have not competed in the event before, if my training schedule permits, I’ll be there doing my best just like everyone else

Thank you, Jess from everyone at Lifestart.

Guy Leech

28169_Guy Leech - MDP_28-04-2010

Guy Leech shot to fame as a 19 year old with an extraordinary, against-the-odds victory in the first ever professional ironman race in the world – the Coolangatta Gold in 1984 – in front of 120,000 people. Leech epitomised the bronzed Aussie with his sun bleached hair, outgoing personality, athletic talent and fighting spirit which saw him dominate Iron Man competition for the next 10 years.

“Leechy” won an amazing 7 Iron Man Championships and the World Iron Man title in the event many believe to be the ultimate test of fitness. He won the Australian Marathon Swimming Championships, represented his country in still water swimming and triumphed in his first attempt at the gruelling World Ocean Paddling championship in Molokai, Hawaii over 56kms.

In 1994 Guy was crowned “Australia’s fittest Athlete” by the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra, competing in 10 events over two days against elite athletes from our highest profile sports. Inside Sport dubbed him “The Fittest Man on the Planet” the following year. He is now 47 years old and remains in such phenomenal shape that Ultra Fit magazine called him the “Fittest 40 year old on the planet” in their 100th issue.

In 2007 he launched the “Guy Leech Health” company and now helps others to get fit – from his daily morning men’s and women’s training groups, attracting hundreds of people a week, including world class athletes such as 7 times world surfing champion, Layne Beachley. Guy has also trained celebrities such as Madonna, Kieran Perkins and Antonia Kidman. He is married with 2 daughters.

Lifestart is extremely proud that Guy continues to choose Kayak for Kids as one of his favourite charities.

Guy commented:

“Kayak for Kids is a unique paddling challenge on beautiful Sydney Harbour for everyone from beginner to serious kayaker. It is also a great opportunity for kayakers to raise money for kids with disability whilst paddling past the city’s icons including Luna Park, the Opera House and Fort Denison before heading into Middle Harbour and on to leafy Clontarf for the Lifestart family picnic. So get your family, friends and workmates together and come out for a fantastic day on the water.”

Paul Nunnari

paul_nunnariPaul Nunnari won the hearts and minds of Australia when he recently appeared on Australia’s Got Talent as extreme wheelchair aerialist, “The Other Superman”. Flying his way all the way into the grand final Paul enthralled judges and audiences alike by defying expectations through his extreme aerial performances that were a world first. While his stage presence was always humble it was his act of physical strength and daring that wowed crowds of all ages resulting in a legion of avid fans and supporters.

Paul is also a former Paralympic silver medallist having represented Australia in road and track racing in Atlanta, Sydney and Athens Paralympic Games.

Lifestart is very proud to have Paul Nunnari as a Lifestart Kayak for Kids Ambassador

Mark Tonga

mark_tongaMark was born of Polynesian parents of modest means, the eldest of seven children in a hardworking, close family. Mark’s parents emigrated to Sydney when he was twelve and he soon left school to support the family and took any work he could.

In his early twenties, Mark started the long journey of fifteen years of self-empowerment through continual part-time study, of mature age literacy and numeracy courses, TAFE for matriculation, then the University of Technology to eventually achieve a Bachelor of Business (Accounting). A remarkable achievement.

In 2008 Mark suffered a catastrophic sport injury. He was immobilised from the neck down and suddenly he had to adjust from being ’10 foot tall and bulletproof’ to learning how to breathe (sometimes with a machine), to be fed, to communicate, to somehow to depend on others without being dependent.

His grittiness, ‘can-do’ optimism and continual focus on others have turned this around.

Mark has mastered his situation, his rehabilitation and his direction. His community contribution is not just from his example of resilience but what he achieves for others.

Bruce Corlett AM, Chairman of Lifestart commented: “Mark is an inspiration to me. I never cease to be astonished by his positive approach to life in so many of its facets. I could give so many examples. I Chair Lifestart, a community organisation that supports kids with disabilities such as Down Syndrome and autism. Along with others such as Guy Leech, Mark has generously agreed to act as an Ambassador to our principal fundraising event this year – Kayak for Kids. I have offered to help Mark attend meetings associated with organising the event – he won’t have a bar of it. “Bruce, just tell me where I am to be and I’ll be there” – his extreme mobility challenges notwithstanding!! At last year’s Kayak for Kids event, Mark’s efforts resulted in a large number of his associates participating in the event and, through them, making a meaningful contribution to our fundraising success. He did this quietly and without any prompting from me.”

Mark is now embarking on a new challenge – studying for an MBA. Mark Tonga is truly an inspirational individual, everybody at Lifestart feels privileged to have Mark as an Ambassador for Lifestart Kayak for Kids.

Sean Smith – Fat Paddler

Sean Smith - Fat Paddler. Ambassador for the Kayak for Kids event March 30, 2014Sean is a paddling journeyman, his growing fame as a big man chasing water-based adventures both in Australia and the rest of the world fed by his paddling website and published memoirs “The Fat Paddler”, which have documented his antics on the water and the fund-raising efforts of his friends and team mates.

His journey started in 2009 when he decided to put behind him two catastrophic car accidents that had left him with serious injuries. Kayaking became a way to get his health back on track, with charity events and fundraising goals being his main motivation.

Since 2009 Sean has worked to inspire and entertain those looking to explore the outdoors and regain their fitness. His many adventures have included competing in five 111km paddling ultra-marathon events, exploring the wilderness and icebergs of Alaska in a folding kayak, paddling through major US cities at night, exploring the cliffs of Los Angeles from the ocean, surfing kayaks in the surf breaks of New Zealand and competing in the World Surfski Series whilst visiting Mauritius. With the emergence of FatPaddler.TV in the near future, Sean is looking to continue to inspire with his ongoing adventures.

Sean and the crew from Team Fat Paddler have competed in the Lifestart Kayak for Kids every year since 2010, so far raising over $30,000 for Lifestart, and are looking forward to the 2014 event.

“We can’t wait for the Lifestart Kayak for Kids event to come around each year. How many people can say they’ve paddled the most beautiful harbour in the world, whilst at the same time supporting the incredible work Lifestart do for kids? It’s a fantastic way to spend a day out and a great cause to support”

Lifestart would like to thank Sean Smith for his continuing support of Kayak for Kids event.

Shelley Oates-Wilding

shelleyShelley Oates-Wilding, one of Lifestart Kayak for Kids’ original Ambassadors, has had an extraordinary career. Shelley is a dual Olympian, a World Champion and she has represented Australia in, not one, but four sports – netball, track and field, kayaking and surf lifesaving. At the tender age of 24, a full knee reconstruction sidelined her netball career. Never one to shy away from a challenge, Shelley did not give up on her dreams and found another sport.

With her trademark discipline and determination, Shelley has become one of the world’s best paddlers. She has achieved the title of World Champion in Surf Ski and Outrigger Canoeing and represented Australia in kayaking at the Atlanta and Sydney Olympic Games. A recent success was 1st place in the Outrigger World Championships in Hawaii. This was the sixth year in a row that Shelley has won this race.

Shelley is currently based in Honolulu where she is the Race Director for the world famous Molokai Surfski World Championships. In addition, Shelley coaches paddlers – from beginners to elite level. Shelley also has a highly successful motivational speaker profile in both Hawaii and Australia.

Shelley has been a great supporter of Kayak for Kids over the years and has arranged for the winner of Kayak for Kids in 2014 to gain entry into the Molokai Classic.

We at Lifestart are honoured to have Shelley represent us as a Kayak for Kids Ambassador. Shelley will be ‘calling’ the finish at Clontarf, do please be sure to introduce yourself.

Thank you Shelley