Mary Long knows that having a second chance at life is an honour to be celebrated.
Her husband Mal, who’d experienced heart issues for more than a decade, was given that privilege about 20 years ago when he received a stranger’s heart. It was thanks to that significant gift from his organ donor and their family that he could continue to make many more precious memories with beloved family and friends.
Mal and Mary knew those extra days and nights together were to be valued. In 2006 they started an event called Cycle of Giving to show their gratitude to Mal’s donor family and the medical team that performed the lifesaving surgery, and to raise awareness of the need for organ and tissue donation.
“Mal’s second chance at life proved to be an extraordinary time,” Mary said.
“Mal and I always wanted to give back for that wonderful gift we received and to acknowledge our transplant team.”
Eighteen cyclists took part in that very first ride. Most of them were members of Mary’s swim squad at the time.
“We were very fit… I wanted to do a swimming charity event, but it kept coming back to cycling as it was probably the easiest thing to pull together even though I didn’t have a bike then,” said Mary.
A work colleague gave Mary a bike so she could organise the charity cycling event and embark on the meaningful journey across what she described as “unchartered territory”.
Drumming up support for the incredible ride to support transplant research and raising awareness of organ and tissue donation came naturally to Mary, so that unchartered territory became a well-known destination very quickly – particularly as the purpose and meaningful story behind the event resonated with so many people.
“Out of everything in a journey that you don’t want to have, there are positives, including new and valued friends who’ve shared similar experiences,” said Mary.
For a little over a decade, the ride course began at the country town of Landsborough and meandered through breathtaking scenery from the Sunshine Coast to Brisbane.
This picturesque pedal was unlike any other and, along with its significant purpose, it’s not surprising that the Cycle of Giving continued to gain momentum over time, and participant numbers flourished.
The last time Mary organised the ride, with the help of some key sponsors, there were around 650 riders.
“I can’t underestimate the generosity of my family, my friends, and the community at large,” Mary said.
“Each year I used to think that Mal would be absolutely agape with the size of the ride.”
Eventually, the Cycle of Giving became so popular that in 2019 it was integrated with the Tour de Brisbane which now accommodates over 5,000 riders in its annual event.
“The support for the Cycle of Giving and for transplant research itself far exceeded my expectations,” she said.
“I will always appreciate that The Common Good agreed to take the Cycle of Giving to another level when I couldn’t.”
The event’s legacy and impact live on, with many riders from the original event participating in the Tour de Brisbane each year, including many transplant recipients and their loved ones.
In 2023, Mary championed the cause close to her heart by continuing to lead the Cycle of Giving Team at the event. And in 2024, she’s guiding a team of cyclists at the Tour de Brisbane again to raise precious funds for organ transplant research and research into other related chronic health conditions.
“I’m so proud to be leading the Cycle of Giving Team again this year to ensure awareness for this vital cause continues to grow,” she said.
She hopes research, made possible by kind fundraisers, will help to give more people a second chance at life – a meaningful gift she will never forget.
“For the rest of my life, we will honour our donor family and the gift they gave us,” Mary said.