Peter Mansell participated in the iconic Moomba Birdman Rally to raise money for the Morgan Mansell Fund, which was established to carry on his daughter Morgan’s mission to support research into finding a cure for the diseases that not only afflicted her but many others throughout the world.

Peter and Julie Mansell’s bright and vivacious 25-year-old daughter, Morgan, passed away in October 2018 after a long and valiant battle against melanoma.

“Through the Morgan Mansell Fund, we aim to undertake one major fundraising event each year. We actually entered the Moomba Birdman Rally last year but it was cancelled due to COVID, so we’re very happy that it went ahead this year.

“Our daughter Morgan had a great sense of fun and she’d be laughing to hear that I’m participating in the rally. She’d also be embarrassed, but overall happy that I’m carrying on her legacy,” said Peter.

The Birdman Rally is a competition for home-made gliders, hang gliders and human-powered aircraft, and all participants nominate a charity. Competitors who are categorised as ‘fly’ or ‘flop’, leap off a platform into the Yarra River, aiming to be the victor and 'fly' furthest into the drink of the awaiting river.

Birdman craft design

Peter’s craft resembled a hang glider but unlike an aerodynamic, lightweight flying craft, it weighed almost 20 kilograms so was unlikely to go far.

“I approached Foamex to supply the polystyrene sheets and to my delight, they supplied them at no cost as well as assisting with the design and cutting the sheets to the correct size and shape.

“The sheets were attached to plyboard using screws, which contributes to the weight and the sturdiness of my craft,” said Peter.

To give it the finishing touches, Peter called on students at the school where he works. The young women painted the craft in bright yellow with spots to match the theme of the charity's annual fundraising day – Morg’s Check4Spots Day held each year on 30 January (Morgan’s birthday).

“The finished craft was eight metres long, which is the longest allowable, so it looked very impressive even if it didn’t go far. I also wore a ridiculous yellow outfit reminiscent of the Wiggles so you couldn’t miss me,” said Peter.

Peter’s craft utilised Foamex Styroboard XPS, which is lightweight, easy to work with, easy to transport and moisture resistant. It is manufactured in Australia and can be pre-cut by Foamex.

Morgan’s legacy

Peter and Julie Mansell are focused on raising money for melanoma research, the most common cancer in young Aussies (18-39 year olds), as well as multiple sclerosis.

“Before Morgan was so very sadly taken from us, she had been passionate about helping others suffering from the health issues that affected her. The Morgan Mansell Fund raises funds to help find a cure for melanoma.

“If you’d like to learn more about Morgan's very personal, very brave and very humorous account of her battle with melanoma (as well as multiple sclerosis and CTLA4), please visit the blog that she wrote (and which we have tried to keep up to date),” they said.

Peter and Julie post regular updates on the MM Facebook page.

How you can help

The Morgan Mansell Fund is designed to raise funds and make annual grants that support research associated with Morgan’s health issues, particularly melanoma, which remains the most common cancer in young Australians aged 18-39.

The Birdman Rally took place on Sunday, 13 March 2022 but you can still contribute by visiting the Morgan Mansell Fund.

All donations are 100% tax-deductible, and every cent is granted towards melanoma research.