Nuatali Nelmes joins celebrity sliders for MND at Big Freeze, Newcastle

She was there “to lend a hand” or foot by pushing celebrity sliders into a pool of ice-cold water.

But Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes proved a good sport when she agreed to also take the plunge for Motor Neurone Disease as part of the inaugural BigFreeze, Newcastle at No.1 Sportsground on Saturday.

When councillor Nelmes turned up that afternoon, it was with no spare clothes and no intention of being submerged in the pool of freezing water and ice.

But the crowd were asked to raise $500 on the spot if they wanted to see her slide.

They quickly obliged. In fact, over $1000 was reached within 30 minutes of the announcement.

In all, BigFreeze, Newcastle, which also included a Gala Ball at Wests New Lambton on Saturday night, raised $141,000 for MND.

“I came here with a normal set of clothes, thinking I was pushing people down the slide to help raise funds for MND,” Councillor Nelmes said.

“But when I got here we decided if people raise money on the day, and I think it ended up over $1000, someone could push me down into freezing cold water, and my God it was cold, I couldn’t feel my toes.

“But it was all for a really good cause, trying to find a cure and to fight MND, which is an insidious disease which affects too many people in our community.”

On hand watching councillor Nelmes and 12 other celebrity sliders take the plunge was event organiser Phil Camden, who was diagnosed in 2013 with the incurable disease that takes the lives of two people in Australia every day.

BigFreeze was started in Melbourne two years ago by former AFL legend Neale Daniher, who also has MND but has vowed to fight back against the disease.

“I wanted to bring awareness and finances to help find a cure for Motor Neurone Disease,” Camden said.

“I was diagnosed in 2013 and I’ve just seen too many people die of this disease and sent home saying there’s nothing you can do, so that’s why we brought it here.”

He was “overwhelmed” by the response from the community of Newcastle.

“When we sat around in my lounge room saying, ‘What are we hoping for?’, we thought $50,000 would be a great target for us to get in our inaugural year,” he said.

“But we’re going to hit over $100,000 by the end of the weekend, which is fantastic.

“I didn’t know what it was when I first got diagnosed. I had no idea what Motor Neurone Disease was, I didn’t know anyone with it. But now people aren’t asking the question, ‘What is that?’, they know because they’ve heard about it and they’re behind it.”

Daniher’s daughter, Rebecca, was in Newcastle for the BigFreeze as well.

“It’s a terrible disease and for long nothing has been done bit it is fundraisers like this that is giving hope to everyone and we’re very hopeful that one day we won’t need to do this because there will be a treatment and a cure,” she said.

Newcastle businesswoman Leah Jay, who lost her son Elliot to MND in 2008, kicked off proceedings by hitting the slide first on Saturday.

She was followed by Genesis owner John Pirlo, dressed up as batman, before Jim and Tim Mackenzie, aka The Blues Brothers made a splash, marking 10 years since they their brother David died from the disease.

Others taking part included former Australian cricketer Anthony Stuart, W-League players Claire Coelho and Tara Andrews, Hunter Academy of Sport chief executive officer Brett O’Farrell, TV journalist Michael Cain and radio host Nick Gill.