Discovering the power of saying ‘no’ and living in the present moment: a journey of hope and charity

Learning to appreciate the present moment, zeroing in on what’s truly important and not putting all of your eggs in one basket are just three of many lessons Hayley Mitchell and John McSpedden took away from the most recent Digital Live Charity Ride in Thailand.

Led by The Agency General Manager for Queensland, Steve Carroll, the Digital Live Charity Ride raised $84,127 for the charity Hands Across the Water by riding 500km from Hua Hin to Khao Lak, Thailand, in five days.

Established in 2005 by former Australian forensic police officer, Peter Baines OAM, Hands Across the Water is dedicated to protecting and providing shelter and education for disadvantaged children in Thailand who may have lost their parents, are unable to be cared for by their family or who have HIV and need support to live with the virus.

Since 2019, the Digital Live rides have raised more than $1.1 million for Hands Across the Water.

Property manager, trainer and consultant at Mitchell PT, Hayley Mitchell, said this was her first ride, and the experience had taught her to be more selective in what she applies herself to.

“I’ve learnt to say no to things I don’t want to do, and it’s given me a much greater focus on where I’m spending my time,” she says.

Hayley says SJ Shooter Real Estate Managing Director Laura Shooter inspired her to do the ride after she completed it last year.

Once she signed up, Hayley says she immediately posted the news on social media to keep herself accountable.

“Prior to doing this, I didn’t even own a bike,” Hayley admits.

“I went and bought a bike, all of the gear and trained as much as I could in the limited time I had.”

The riders in Thailand.

Hayley says as a single mum with two children and a business to run, she was worried she wouldn’t have enough time to spend on training, but she’s happy to report that was a misconception.

“I set up a bike stand in my living room, so I used to watch TV and ride the bike in my living room,” she explains.

“Being a single mum, I couldn’t leave the kids at home while I went riding, so on the weeks I had my kids, I was in the lounge room riding and on the other weeks, I was going around and around the block.”

Hayley says each of the riders was given a photograph of the Hands Across the Water child they were riding for, and she felt a close affinity with hers, along with the pain her family must have felt in giving her up to allow her to have a better life.

“My little girl was five-years-old… and she’d been there (with Hands Across the Water) since she was two,” Hayley says.

“Her parents had separated, which is really close to my story, and her mum lost her job during Covid and had to decide what was best for her child, which was to give her up.

“For the whole ride that was sitting with me, and I was thinking, ‘imagine having to make that decision’ as a parent.”

Hayley Mitchell with the Hands Across the Water child she completed the ride for.

Hayley says the ride also made her realise she needed to diversify her income streams and not put all of her eggs in one basket.

“I look at a lot of things differently now,” she says.

“It’s making me create other revenue streams for myself so that I’m never going to go through the situation that the parents of my little girl went through. I’m making sure that I’m sustainable into the future.”

Hayley Mitchell after the first 10km of the ride on Day 1.

For John McSpedden, who has been in the real estate industry for more than 30 years as an agent, a principal, a BDM with the REIQ and now as a self-employed trainer, this was his second ride.

And he says if he can do the ride at age 72, anyone can complete it.

“I trained for eight months before my first ride and I was riding 40km a day, five days a week and on the weekend up to 100km,” John recalls.

“I was petrified that I wouldn’t be able to ride with the others, but I actually over-trained.

“You don’t have to train that hard. This time around, I trained for three months. Anyone can do this. I’m 73 next month, so anyone can do it.”

John says riding in at the end of the ride and seeing the children was an emotional experience.

“It was absolutely sensational, not only from a personal point of view but moreover what you’re doing it for,” he says.

“I didn’t really realise what I was doing it for until I rode in at the end and it was just the most euphoric experience I’d ever had in my life.”

John McSpedden with the Hands Across the Water child he completed the ride for.

John says he’s already signed up to do the ride again. 

So far, he says the biggest personal takeaway he has gained from the ride is to let go of the past and focus on the present.

“Don’t worry about what’s happened in the past; learn from it,” John says.

“Plan for the future, but don’t worry about the future because there’s a lot in the future you can’t do anything about.

“Get on with today and enjoy the process of what you’re doing. If you’re not enjoying it, get out of it.”

If you’d like to take part in the next charity ride to provide much-needed funds for children at Hands Across the Water, contact Steve Carroll on 0457 763 820.

John McSpedden (left) presenting the cheque for the money raised for Hands Across the Water.

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Kylie Dulhunty

Kylie Dulhunty is the Editor at Elite Agent.