For more than 10 years, Ray has kindly contributed monthly towards the rental of an aquarium that sits in the foyer of the Centre and has brought great joy to the children who attend the programme. The tank is a focal point at the entry to the Centre for many of the 100 young children who visit weekly, as the gently moving fish provide an attractive and calming transition from the intensity of the outside world into the gentle ambiance of the Centre.
Ray started work as an orderly at Burwood Hospital, right next door to the Champion Centre and stayed there 37 years, until his retirement six years ago. His first job was on the maternity ward; then in 1979 he became the first orderly to work on the spinal unit. For many years Ray would deliver the mail to the Centre and got to know some of the staff, particularly those in the office, as he always enjoys a chat.
I ask Ray what he liked most about working at Burwood, ‘the people,’ says Ray. ‘I helped to deliver two babies in my time, one in the carpark and one when a woman went into labour in the lift and delivered in the corridor.’
I point out that walking the long corridors must have been great training. ‘16 kms a day we used to walk. I wore a pedometer when we were raising funds for Telethon in the 1980’s, so I know that.’
It all started back in 1977, when Ray smoked 30 cigarettes a day and weighed 114kg. A health scare jump started him into running for fitness. Ray has now clocked up 8 ultra-marathons (80kms), 39 marathons and run several 100-mile races, and this May he was set to run his 40th marathon (event now cancelled). Ray, who is 71 in April, competes in the over 70-year category and proudly states there are few competitors in that group now.
What has kept Ray interested in running for so many years? ‘I feel so much better. I started slow and built it up. I find I eat better, and running is good for sleep, however I now enjoy a nap in the afternoon to recharge.’ Other than arthritis and the odd niggle, Ray still keeps fit. I think we can all take a leaf out of Ray's book.