A life dedicated to volunteering

Ken Mansfield (Ivan Kemp) 258788_07

Ash Bolt

Ken Mansfield enjoys being able to help other people.

He has spent many years volunteering with Rotary and helping out with local events.

Earlier this month, his extensive volunteer work was acknowledged, with Ken receiving the COTA Victorian Senior Achiever Award at the 2021 Victorian Senior of the Year awards.

Ken said he was “very surprised and very humbled” to receive the award.

“You don’t do things for the recognition, but it is nice that someone out thought highly enough of me to nominate me for the award,” he said.

In his nomination, Ken was lauded for his “mix of expertise, commitment and generosity” to sports clubs and volunteer organisations, as well as inspiring others to also give back to the community.

Among Ken’s volunteer achievements has been 45 years spent as a member of the Rotary Club of Highton.

“I’ve been a member since the inaugural meeting in 1975,” he said.

With Rotary, Ken was the driving force behind the Barwon Banks Fun Run, which raised much-needed funds for the Give Where You Live Foundation.

Ken initiated the event more than 25 years ago and dedicated his time to plotting out the route each year and measuring the track.

He said it was “satisfying” to see the support the event had been able to provide to Give Where You Live over the years, which in turn went to supporting community organisations throughout the Geelong region.

He has also served as the president of the Geelong Business Club and been involved with supporting the Lorne Pier to Pub for more than 40 years as a volunteer.

“I’ve been helping down in Lorne for a number of years,” Ken said.

“It’s a really good event down there and I’ve always thought that if there is need for a little bit of help, I’m happy to help out.

“So I go down there every year and do what I can.”

Having committed plenty of his time to volunteering across the community, Ken said he got enjoyment out of being able to help people.

“It’s hard to answer when people ask why you do it,” he said.

“It’s just one of those things that feels like it’s the right thing to do.

“If you have the time and experience to help other people, then you just do it.

“I get a lot of satisfaction from seeing others benefit with my support, especially when its something they can’t do for themselves.

“It’s a very rewarding feeling to help others.”

Along with his volunteering, Ken has also used his other passion – cycling – to give back.

A regular participant with the Geelong and Surf Coast Cycling Club, which he has been a foundation member of since 1977, Ken has also used his bicycle to raise money for charity.

About 15 years ago, Ken joined with 10-15 other cyclists to ride across the Nullabor from Perth to Melbourne to raise money for the Fred Hollows Foundation.

Although he can’t remember exactly how much money the trip raised, he said it was one of the greatest experiences of his life.

“It took 21 days to get from Perth to Melbourne on the push bike,” he said.

“It was really something. It was a great experience.

“Looking back on it, that is one of the highlights of my life. It’s one of the achievements I look back on with pride.”

While raising money was the main focus, the trip was also a significant step in helping Ken achieve one of his life goals.

He said three years ago he had finally achieved his dream to cycle his way around Australia, albeit doing it in several smaller trips.

“I always wanted to ride all the way around Australia and see the whole country,” he said.

“I did it as several trips over a long time – it started with a first leg around the time of the bicentenary [in 1988] when I rode from Melbourne to Sydney.

“The trip across the Nullarbor was the biggest one, but there were quite a few other big ones, like Perth up to the north of Western Australia like Broome and those areas.

“I was finally able to finish it off about three years ago when I was able to go cycling around Tasmania, which I had left until last.

“It took 30 years, but I was able to cycle all the way around Australia.”

Pushing himself and testing his physical limits has been a feature of Ken’s life, highlighted by his decision to hike the Kokoda Track at 70 years old.

Originally set up as a fundraiser, Ken said he initially had trouble convincing tour companies to take him along for the trip, but was able to show his fitness, stamina and mental strength and made it along the gruelling hike.

He said it was experience he was immensely proud of.

Now 84 years old, Ken said he would continue to volunteer and keep active as long as he could but he had found “age makes you slow down”.

Ken was one of 15 people to receive a COTA Victorian Senior Achiever Award this year.

The award recognises “significant contributions to local communities and Victoria” and are one of the major awards given out during at the Victorian Senior of the Year awards, held during Seniors Week each year.

Disability, Ageing and Carers Minister James Merlino said the awards were a chance to recognise and celebrate the achievements and support of seniors in the community.

“Senior Victorians are the backbone of our communities, generously sharing their skills, time, kindness and care every day,” he said.

“The Victorian Senior of the Year Awards are our chance to say thanks to the many senior Victorians who make our state stronger and fairer.

“Despite the challenges of 2021, senior Victorians continue to step up, adapt and give back to their community in a range of ways – as advocates, local leaders, and as volunteers providing invaluable support to their communities.

“The stories of senior Victorians highlighted through the 2021 Victorian Senior of the Year Awards are truly inspiring.

“Senior Victorians continue to go above and beyond to help others, increase community connection, promote cultural and social inclusion, and create lasting change.”