River’s Gift, Michelle

‘In 1972 my elder sister Marie-Louise died of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).  She was the first born child of my parents, Rosalie and Peter. Like many SIDS babies, Marie-Louise was a fit and healthy baby, although she had a slight cold the night she passed away.  She was just 11 weeks old.’  Today we are talking to River’s Gift Volunteer Michelle Jackman.


Michelle’s friend was joining the first running campaign of local charity River’s Gift in 2012 and asked Michelle to join her.  Michelle had never run before and was looking for a way to get fit, as well as something that she could do just for herself.

The running campaign was the perfect choice. It got Michelle exercising, as well as fundraising for a cause she felt very passionate about.  That year she ran the 12km event at Run Geelong and was the highest fundraiser of that campaign.  ‘It was great fun but I couldn’t have done it without the support of my husband, Matt, and my four boys – it was a team effort’

River’s Gift is fronted by local couple Karl and Alex Waddell, who lost their own son River Jak to SIDS in 2011. The desire to find the cause of SIDS deaths and to ensure other families did not have to endure their heartache, led them to form the charity which is now the biggest funder of SIDS related research in Australia. Humans in Geelong featured Karl and River’s Gift in a story on October 23.

It is this same desire to find answers that sees Michelle still very much involved in River’s Gift 5 years on.  ‘I really would like Mum and Dad to have answers before they die. Marie-Louise’s death shaped my upbringing.  Things were very different 45 years ago, and parents had to deal with not only the trauma of losing a child, but the unsympathetic way in which it was often dealt with.’

Michelle has completed every running campaign with Rivers Gift since their inception. She soon joined the guiding committee and took on the voluntary role of team captain, responsible for monitoring the well-being of the runners, whilst assisting them with their fundraising ideas and providing a friendly face at all the training.  Michelle volunteers much of her time to the charity, assisting at events and helping with recruitment of other volunteers, as well as her role within the running campaigns.  ‘I really enjoy it,’ says Michelle ‘It’s something I do just for me, not as a mum, a wife or an employee.  I also love the sense of community, of giving back, and how it draws like minded people- it’s addictive.’

http://www.riversgift.com/ If you would like to make a difference to this worthwhile cause and get fit at the same time, the campaign for the Great Ocean Road 6km and 14km events is just about to begin.  Training is on Wednesdays and Saturdays and starts tomorrow Wednesday 1st March.  Contact Karl on 0488 111 182 .

Written by Melinda Hopper