Exceptional effort an inspiration

Rob Mason received the Graham Woodrup Memorial Award, presented during the Murray to Moyne Cycle relay event.ROB Mason says he prefers to be in the back row.
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“I’m not an up-front sort of person,” he says.

From the back row, he has been an integral mainstay supporter for the local cyclists pedalling each year to raise money for local health facilities.

His support for the local Murray to Moyne Cycle Relay team over the past two decades and his efforts as the team’s leading fund-raiser in support of Kerang District Health have not gone unnoticed.

Mr Mason is the first Kerang person to be awarded the Graham Woodrup Memorial Award, presented each year as recognition for someone who has displayed “exceptional effort and inspiration” to others in the course of his/her team’s involvement with the Murray to Moyne.

He said that he was “a bit speechless” when Loddon Murray Cycling Club president and Kerang relay team leader, Max Christian telephoned him with the news.

“It was nice to be recognised,” he said.

“I’ve gained a lot of satisfaction. It’s the community that supports us.”

Mr Mason’s involvement may not have endured if the inaugural Kerang team had not overcome tragic adversity to participate.

Two decades on, he still becomes emotional contemplating those circumstances.

In 1995, he met keen cyclist Sonia Laursen, aged 23, who was determined to get a team riding in the relay to raise money for the Kerang hospital.

She recruited some workmates, some who were old enough to be her mother, including Mr Mason’s wife, Judy.

Training began in earnest for the ride. Sonia was married in early March 1995, but only weeks later and 11 days before the ride, Sonia was killed when struck from behind by a motor vehicle.

Mr Mason was among those who were determined to honour Sonia’s life by completing the ride.

He was the coach and captain and also drove the mini bus towing the bike trailer.

There were five riders in that first local team and since there have been up to 18 riders representing Kerang on the 520-kilometre journey from Swan Hill to Port Fairy.

Since that first ride, Mr Mason has continued to organise the ride every year since 1995 to honour Sonia and has continued raising funds for the hospital.

Not counting this year’s contribution, which is still being finalised, $200,000 has been distributed to the local hospital.

Mr Mason instigates many fund-raising functions, sells raffle tickets throughout the year and has distributed raffle books to families across the district for the past 20 years.

He attributes a lot of the success to another relay stalwart, Heather Mortlock who has helped to organise the team and assist with food preparation for the team for many years.

Rob’s health has deteriorated over the past year and so the Loddon Murray Cycling Club offered to organise the ride; but the 12-month effort of selling tickets in the street is ongoing.

“We feel his devotion and determination to honour Sonia’s life and ambition to instigate the M2M ride for Kerang is an awesome achievement in which he has diligently continued for over 20 years,” Mr Christian said.

Mr Mason, now 70, said that he would like his involvement to taper off, but he will continue to help as long as he is able.

“It’s been a real buzz. The community support for the hospital has always been special,” he said.

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