Sliding for a cure

Matt Stickland and his children.

By Emma Xerri

Receiving his Motor Neurone Disease (MND) diagnosis nine years ago, Matt Stickland and his family have been heavily active in the fight against MND for the better part of a decade.

Now, after years of eagerly contributing to the hills community through Auskick, Little Athletics, Pony Club and others, Matt and his family are calling on the members of the community to help them in their fight against the ‘beast,’ by attending and supporting their Hills MND Big Freeze on Sunday 2 June.

“This is our first year running the slide event,” wife and organiser Sarah said, jokingly admitting that she may have stolen the event from the Garfield Pub.

“The support has been absolutely overwhelming.

“It’s amazing how many people want to help out and want to do things.

“And we’ve spent quite a lot of time working out how to manage the day.

“We’ve got a giant inflatable slide coming that we will fill with ice, and we’ve been doing a lot of advertising and promoting for donations towards our goal, and other donations that we can include in our silent auctions and raffles on the day.

“We’ve also pulled together a few friends to brainstorm the best people in the community to do the slide, and nobody has said no.

“Everyone has jumped at the opportunity, which has been great!”

Among those sliding on the day is long-time Emerald SES volunteer Ben Owen, who is keeping his costume a “surprise” for now, but is excited to be taking part in the slide for the first time after years of cheering on the participants from the sidelines.

“My plan is to get in and out as quickly as possible, so there’s been no preparation,” he laughed.

“The only preparation is working out what costume I’ll be using, and whether it’s going to have any thermal qualities. But I’m still working through a few things with my wife and two daughters, so hopefully we land on a good fit.”

Having also experienced the challenges of MND with someone close to him, Ben is not only partaking in support of Matt and his family, but in tribute to Emerald SES volunteer John, who lost his battle to MND around 11 years ago.

“It has amazed me the number of people I’ve spoken to about the event who are touched by it, because they know somebody who was recently diagnosed or who has passed away,” Sarah added.

“It’s a lot bigger than you’d think.

“And Matt’s very lucky. He’s nine years diagnosed, and for seven years he’s been on one of the trial drugs that gained momentum from Fight MND and the donations they received.

“It has definitely slowed his symptoms down, so the more trials we can get going, and the more collaboration we can achieve on experiments they are running, the closer we will get to doing something about MND.”

Hoping their Hills MND Big Freeze event can contribute towards these ever-needed funds, Sarah is also optimistic that, with some community spirit, and perhaps some sunny weather, the event can also be a fun day out for members of the community.

“It’s about raising awareness and raising as much money as we can,” she said; a feat the event has already well and truly achieved, having raised more than $11,000 towards their new goal of $50,000.

“But I also think the day will be full of lots of fun and community spirit.”

And, much like the highly anticipated slides from organisations like the AFL – with two AFL players also set to be taking part in the hills event – Sarah is also hoping the day will be one made only more enjoyable by creative costumes from the 12 sliders.

“We’ve asked them all to come up with a fancy dress, but this will be a surprise on the day.

“We just want everyone to get involved.

“To see everybody wearing their beanies on the day would be awesome.

“And if the community gets around it, then we’ll definitely continue to do it.”

The Hills MND Big Freeze will take place on Saturday 2 June at Paradise Valley Hotel, and will be a free, non-ticketed event.

Sliding will start at 2pm, and attendees are encouraged to be there by 1 to find a spot, purchase some raffle tickets, take part in the silent auction, purchase a beanie and, of course, donate.

For more information, and to donate ahead of time, visit