Mark and Bev Skinner.
Mark and Bev Skinner.

Sixteen years ago a charity started that endures today

SENIOR Citizen of the Year 2020 is The Board Meeting Surf Charity volunteer chair of 16 years Mark Skinner whose passion for this Coast charity continues unabated.

"There was 23 wonderful people (on the stage) who have given an enormous amount of their life to charity and I didn't think I would have a shot," Mark, 65, said.

The Coast charity raises funds to support disabled children and their families. It started with three mates - Mark, lawyer Guy Gibbons and special needs teacher Mike Belknap.

It was Mike's son Ty who was the first recipient of the charity's work.

Ty, who has Down Syndrome, qualified for an international swimming event in Ireland.

He needed $1500 to get Ty to the annual event.

The mates put on a surf competition with 30 mates paying $50 each to participate.

"The following year the Down Syndrome association rang me and said we had done such a great job, and now three kids from the Sunny Coast had qualified for the world titles in Budapest," Mark said.

They raised about $10,000 after tweaking the surfing competition format and registering as a charity.


Senior Citizen of the Year Mark Skinner with Maroochy RSL president Michael Liddelow and Sunshine Coast Mayor Mark Jamieson.
Senior Citizen of the Year Mark Skinner with Maroochy RSL president Michael Liddelow and Sunshine Coast Mayor Mark Jamieson.


The charity has raised an outstanding $1.7 million and supports about 150 families annually.

Some get respite care, others receive therapy that's not covered by the NDIS and equipment.

"We have an approach that once a family becomes a beneficiary of the charity, they are with us until the child turns 18," Mark said.

It's what he finds is the most rewarding part of his volunteer work supporting the young kids and watching their lives change for the better.

Last month the charity launched the unique Coast service which provides a children's transfer vehicle.

"It's a wheelchair-fitted van that can take kids to medical appointments with their parents or siblings because we have found a lot of them are single parents and don't have vehicles," Mark said.

"A volunteer driver picks up the family, takes them to their appointment and then take them back home."

Recently a board member charity donated an old car to a family with seven children, five of them with severe autism, that didn't have a car and moved them into public housing so they could be closer to public facilities.

His wife Bev, who has backed Mark up every step of the way, helped set up the flat with furniture and household staples. That was a personal contribution.

Using online communication and a supporter's office for monthly meetings, the charity is successfully run only by volunteers such as Mark.

Even though Mark has a full-time role with his national advertising company, he can spend at peak times between 15 to 20 hours a week leading the Board Meeting Surf Charity as it grows, signing up more sponsors and supporters, organising events and communicating with charity applicants.

After his cancer scare seven years ago and the ensuing back surgery, getting out on the water has been difficult.

He put on 20 kilos and bought a bigger board so he can still hit the waves, from time to time.

Surrounded in his lounge room by a multitude of goods that have been collected for fundraising events, Mark said when it comes to stepping back from the chair role:

"I will keep going for a few more years".

"We don't have in place someone ready to take over, but we are grooming people now."

But don't think he will walk away when the time comes.

"I will stay around;

I can't see any reason not to."

A big part of his role is managing the five events the charity holds each year.

"I feel very rewarded to doing the charity work," he added.

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