Not all recent swimming achievements have played out in the Beijing pool during the big games. Patients of the cancer unit at the Westmead Children’s Hospital will soon benefit from the fundraising efforts of Sydney actuary Kaise Stephan, who has swum the English Channel to raise $250,000 for the hospital’s oncology research program.

Stephan aims to boost the cancer research capabilities of the hospital, which are pivotal in developing better treatments for tumours and conditions such as leukaemia. Due to continued research, three out of four children diagnosed with cancer now survive their conditions, compared to the one-in-four survival rate of 30 years ago.

Stephan’s effort was spurred by his 13-year old cousin, a patient at Westmead who has undergone chemotherapy for leukaemia and remains under the hospital’s care. Witnessing the work carried out by the oncology unit – and the impact that research has on the recovery rates of its patients – provided a source of further inspir0ation.

General insurance company Munich Re and the Institute of Actuaries of Australia (IAA) have backed Stephan’s efforts. President of the IAA, Greg Martin, says the institute has adopted the Children’s Hospital at Westmead as its official charity for 2008. “We have promoted the cause and raised funds at a number of events in support of Kaise’s effort on behalf of the hospital,” Martin says.

The IAA congratulated Stephan’s successful swim across the Channel in July. “No one should underestimate the difficulty and discomfort entailed in swimming 40 kilometres through such a busy, choppy seaway.”

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