DOWN TIME: Mick Maley takes time out on the chair erected in his honour at Fitzroy Oval with wife Wendy and grandchildrend (from left) Josie Fidge, Matilda Maley and Toby Fidge.
DOWN TIME: Mick Maley takes time out on the chair erected in his honour at Fitzroy Oval with wife Wendy and grandchildrend (from left) Josie Fidge, Matilda Maley and Toby Fidge. Brad Greenshields

Mick bids farewell after years of being a fund raising champ

THIRTY years of hard work and dedication toward organising large sporting events that raise money for local community groups and charities has come to an end for Mick Maley.

What started out as a fundraising bid to scrape together enough money for Life Education to purchase a bus has turned into decades of work that has seen $930,000 raised.

Over three decades events such as the Coffs Tri, Coffs Ocean Swims and Coffs Harbour Running Festival and the money they've raised have all been possible chiefly because of Maley's efforts.

While many are in awe of the work Maley has done over the years for so many, the humble man believes the thanks should go elsewhere, to the "countless millions" as he called them.

"I've had thousands of people helping me and I've had quite a few people that have been helping me for the 30 years," Maley said.

The oft used phrase "from little things, big things grow" couldn't be more apt when describing the fund raising juggernaut that these sporting events have become.

Life Education needed a van and the rest is now history.

"We had to raise about $120,000 in 12 months and the Ex-Services club would give us 50 grand if we did it in 12 months," he explained.

"We did it in 13 months and they still gave us the 50 grand."

Life Education sends trained Educators to primary schools with a mobile classroom to deliver a program aimed at helping children make informed, healthy and safe choices.

Now into its 20th year, community champion Mick Maley has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for charity with the Coffs Ocean Swims. 2 April 2017 Jetty Beach Coffs Harbour Photo: Brad Greenshields/Coffs Coast Advocate
COMMUNITY CHAMPION: Mick Maley at the Coffs Coast Ocean Swims on April 2. Brad Greenshields

"Wendy and myself went to a meeting. We'd heard about Life Education, what it does and its programs and the bible sort of thing and they were trying to get a fundraising committee going," he recalled.

"We just went to meeting at the old civic centre and I had three young kids at the time and I thought it was a good thing to get involved with. The town needed it.

"At the meeting some old duck stood up and said 'you'll never get this money, it's a waste of time' and all that and she fired me up enough. I put my hand up and said I'm in."

Once the bus was bought, Maley said the next step was to raise money to pay for its running costs and at the end of the day, he thought the triathlon was a good event for Coffs Harbour.

"And there was nobody else silly enough to do it," the 64 year-old joked.

"And I enjoyed doing it. Especially the kids event, it was so good.

"Under no pressure, the first kid got the same as what the last kid got, the same pats on the back, the same everything and it created just a fun activity and I think we've still got that atmosphere with community involvement."

From there Maley increased his efforts so the number of local charities and sporting groups who received a share of the funds could grow.

Of course running such large scale events needs sponsorship and volunteers. Maley was never shy to ask but he admits some people may have tired of his calls for help.

"It got to the stage where I'd walk down the main street, people would see you coming and they'd walk the other way or cross the road because they knew they were going to get bit. And that's probably still the case," he said with a smile.

But the volunteers continued to put their hand up each year and Maley said there's no possible way he'll ever be able to fully express his gratitude to those who've given their time freely to help with such great causes.

Many coming back each year for all events.

"Everything was done by the community," he said.

"All the help that I got was our community and the money was going back into our community."

REGULAR CHECK-UPS: Mick Maley emerged from his cancer scare with the help of close mates like Steve Moneghetti, the popular Olympian.
PAYING TRIBUTE: Australian distance running legend Steve Moneghetti sees Mick Maley as more than just an organiser of the Coffs Harbour Running Festivals, since the run was first held in 2011 the pair have become firm friends.

While Maley is held in high esteem throughout the Coffs Coast, further proof of that regard he's held came from Commonwealth Games gold medallist Steve Moneghetti who has been the face of all six Coffs Harbour Running Festivals so far.

Last year he wasn't going to come to Coffs Harbour but when he heard it would be the last Running Festival Maley would be involved in, the distance running great quickly changed his plans.

"I wanted to come back just to sort of thank him for all of the effort that he does to put the event on," Moneghetti said.

While the triathlon had become a regular fixture on the Coffs Harbour calendar, Maley saw an opportunity in an historic moment for the town.

"They renovated the Jetty and I always reckoned that Coffs Harbour was right for an ocean swim and I just asked 'can I organise an ocean swim at your opening' which we did," he said.

"It was very laid back and it was just around the jetty and it got swags of people and I thought this has got to continue because it's what Coffs wants.

"As we went from that to the next one, the amount of people that started to swim to jetty made me feel good and the squads in town they increased because it was a carrot for people in the area to train for."

An avid sportsman and follower himself, Maley said working with sporting events was a natural fit for him as it fit in with his outlook on life.

"I've always said a healthy community is a happy community and with Village Sports who run the events now, that's what we still work under," he said.

And a community that has people like Mick Maley in it who put the needs of others ahead of their own will always be a community worth living in.

The sheer weight of numbers 30 years of hard work creates.

Life Education Tri (13 years)
Particpants - 4800 adults, 4300 kids
Volunteers - 3200

bcu Coffs Tri (5 years)
Particpants - 2000 adults, 800 kids
Volunteers - 2000

Coffs Ocean Swims (20 years)
Particpants - 10000
Volunteers - 3200

Coffs Harbour Running Festival (6 years)
Particpants - 6800 adults
Volunteers - 1100

Total - 28700 participants and 8700 volunteers.