Lee Carseldine has gone from Stroking cover drivs to raising money and awareness for the Stroke Foundation. Images @leecarseldine/ Supplied

Former Queensland batsman and Survivor star Lee Carseldine is again stripping down for the Stroke Foundation calendar in memory of his mother.

Lee Carseldine is no stranger to challenges. Throughout a sporting career, reality tv shows, various business interests amid transitioning into life post-sport, he has always been on the lookout for the next challenge that comes along.

For the second straight year, Carseldine is tackling the idea of strokes away from the centre of the Gabba where he made his name as a young batsman for the Queensland Bulls and stripping the whites off for a cause extremely close to his heart.

The 43-year-old, former state cricketer and two-time Australian Survivor contestant, has stripped down again for this year’s towel challenge calendar for the Stroke Foundation. A cause which is close to Carseldine and close to 500,000 Australians who are living with the effects of a stroke.

One in four people will have a stroke in their lifetime.

In 2020, There were 27,428 Australians who experienced stroke for the first time in their lives. That equates to one stroke every 19 minutes.

During filming of last season’s Australian Survivor All-Stars, Carseldine was pulled aside by a producer with a phone in hand with the information that his mother had had a stroke back home in Australia. Upon hearing the news, he exited the game immediately but he, unfortunately, didn’t make it home in time to say a final goodbye.

In an interview with The Inner Sanctum, Carseldine said that creating the calendar last year was his way of grieving and all came about after a bit of fun between fellow Survivor alumni.

“Last year, it was hugely emotional to do it and it was a way for me to go through the process of grieving was to change my focus externally and try to do something good,” Carseldine said on the emotions of the last year.

“Everyone got around it, which was great. I think it has seemed, at the start of a tricky period through COVID, it was amazing. The focus went from the funds that had dried up overnight which you would expect with COVID and the uncertainty of what that was back then but, with COVID and everyone in lockdown and getting stuck into the challenge, it shifted from a money and fundraising perspective to a great awareness perspective.”

After an approach from the Stroke Foundation, Carseldine began to ponder what idea would break through. After some fun with some fellow Survivor castaways on Instagram, the lightbulb moment hit and the towel challenge came to life.

“Like with all charities, they needed to do something a bit different. So be it because of a mini viral post that went around at that time. The white towel which some famous photographer took a photo of, a few of the Survivor people took the piss out of it, next thing you know its this mini viral thing going on and we thought, let’s just run with that?”

“It’s a fun idea. We felt let’s include everyone on it and everyone can wear a towel however they wanted. So it sort of went from there.”

“A lot of people asked how it originated, and I kind of like it, there’s a bit of a story behind it. It has a little bit of history and something that is totally not relevant at all to what we’re doing but, it was the way that it cut through. And let’s be honest, it was a way for Dave [David Genat] and myself to get our eggs out.”

Lee Carseldine’s mother Elizabeth ‘Beppie’ Carseldine passed away while he was filming Survivor: All-Stars in Fiji in September last year. And on Friday, the 44-year-old shared a touching tribute to his late mum in an Instagram post

This is not the first time that Carseldine has had a brush with a stroke in his family. His father had a stroke 15 years ago. He said that going down the charity route was the perfect way to honour his mother’s legacy.

“She was a very giving person. She basically just donated her life to giving back to people. And I thought what better way to extend her legacy than doing something like that as well.

“I’m very proud to have been associated with her and my dad as well who had a stroke 15 years ago too. So it’s very prevalent in my family and I am fully aware of the effect and the impact it does have on the immediate and extended families as well as the survivors that come through it like my dad has.”

Carseldine often refers to his family being the most important thing to him throughout this past 12 month period. Both his flesh and blood and his Survivor family of which have become a tight-knit group with friendships spanning across the country.

He and fellow contestant and winner David Genat put the call out to all the Survivor family to get involved in the first edition of the calendar and they all came running to get involved.

“It took one call and they all came running. I will forever be grateful for that,” he said.

Carseldine with Australian Survivor alumni [L-R Lee Caeseldine, Brooke Jowett, David Genat, Phoebe Timmins, Jarrad Seng] participating in the Stroke Foundation Towel challenge calendar again in 2021. Image: Supplied

“It’s a funny thing, with that show, you’re all going through hell out there on that island, regardless of if you’re in there for two days or whether you’re in there for 55 days, you’re a part of this family. Like all families, you don’t catch up all that time but you know it’s one of those ones where if you don’t see each other for a year or six months and you do catch up it’s like you pick up where you left off. And not only from the contestants but the whole crew and production team as well so everyone got behind it and did their bit as well.”

The success of the Survivors in year one prompted interest from other walks and fields in this year’s calendar which Carseldine says filled him with immense gratitude that others were getting behind a worthy cause and were willing to put themselves out there and do something different.

“We could have gone again this year, I think some people needed some new talent as they say so we decided to extend it out to other industries and TV personalities, media, sportys, actors, etc.

“We had a couple [call to be a part of it] which was great.

“A lot of people had heard about it but some hadn’t. So you had to tell them what it was all about and once you did they were all in for it because at the end of the day they probably only had to donate an hour of their time and come in and get some photos taken.

“We like to think that now, especially with celebrities and those guys, they tend to sit back and wait to see which other people do it before they jump in. Once they heard that Natalie Roser, Hugh Sheridan, and Sophie Monk were in [this year’s calendar], they all came running which was great and I think if we go again next year it will just go from strength to strength.”

Carseldine’s pride for the product and all involved shone through at the end. Not only for all the big names and Survivor alumni that took the challenge to strip off in front of the camera, but also the involvement of all the stroke survivors who came along on the day.

Not only has the Stroke Foundation and the calendar provided a platform for some fundraising in a unique and different idea but have allowed stroke survivors a platform to show off and be confident in their bodies and selves.

A chance to continue being living breathing examples of resilience and life.

“That was probably the highlight, seeing all the stroke survivors getting into it,” Carseldine said.

“The most favourite moment for me was that you have this photoshoot with all these celebrities and identities who come along and do the shoot, and, we have the stroke survivors coming along and doing the shoot as well. And having photos with them and them getting involved with the shoot as well.

“They have had a very tough situation occur to them and for them to get out. As much as we take the piss about the towel and it’s all about David, there’s another aspect, you know being confident in your body as well and these guys and girls got straight into it and got their kit off and that was probably the most special moment for me. Whether it be in a wheelchair or a walking frame or doing handstands, whatever, for them to show what ability they still have, that was probably one of the most special moments.”

“We had about half a dozen survivors turn up, have their photos taken. Got to meet some of their celebrity friends and stuff like that and also got involved in the photoshoot as well. And that’s just as important because as much as we can get out there and raise awareness when you see hands down, the people who are affected get involved, that’s what we want as well.

“I’m really proud of all the people that got involved.”

Head to www.towelchallenge.org.au to purchase your copy of the Stroke Foundation calendar for 2021.

If your family has been affected by a Stroke or you want to learn more about the impact of Stroke, .https://strokefoundation.org.au/

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