Meet Sarah

our founding Marilyn!

Like so many others, founding Marilyn Sarah Tinney, first turned to fundraising after a personal experience. Her mother back in the US was diagnosed in 2006, and passed away in 2007. From the first day of her mother’s diagnosis, Sarah pledged to help raise money to cure cancer in her honour

and that’s how the Marilyn Jetty Swim was born.

This is Sarah’s story…

What started as a light-hearted conversation with some of the ladies at our local surf club about doing a fundraiser with a difference, has become something I’m incredibly proud of. I’m not athletic but agreed to do a swim out to the jetty with a floaty in the name of raising money—given two conditions. One, to make it more comical by dressing as one of the most iconic women ever to grace our screens and two, to be joined by lookalike ‘decoys’ so spectators wouldn’t be able to identify me swimming awkwardly.

A handshake sealed the deal.

It was only months later, while feeling reluctant, I called my friend with the intention of pulling out of the stunt. When she told me the shocking news that she’d just been diagnosed with breast cancer and I knew there was no turning back.

With every fundraising event I’ve done, particularly the Marilyn Jetty Swim, my mum is in my heart. I know I’m doing something to help beat cancer in her honour and it’s given me incredible empowerment to turn my grief into action. And I’m so lucky to doing it surrounded by amazing women.

2020 saw our seventh Marilyn Jetty Swim—our very own seven year itch—and each year we have a fabulous time knowing that we’re making a big difference. We’ve gathered other adventurous women (and men!) from all different walks of life, united by their desire to see the end of cancer.

As a group we work tirelessly in the lead up to February, holding cinema nights, sausage sizzles, high teas and pamper events, as well as raffles, casual days and lunch tours—whatever we can to raise a few dollars. Come the big day our ladies are professionally made up, wearing gorgeous vintage white bathing suits, platinum blonde wigs and red lipstick, before parading down Jetty Rd in Brighton with the Royal Australian Navy Band.

It’s really quite spectacular to then see more than 200 Marilyn lookalikes plunge into the ocean, paddling around the Brighton Jetty with the support of surf lifesavers. And if swimming’s not their style, we have Marilyns parading the shoreline, handing out sunscreen and collecting donations.

While strutting around in your swimwear may seem daunting, this is absolutely not a beauty competition. It’s about having fun while making a difference for everyone who’s been affected by cancer.

We’re so proud that each year the event keeps growing. In 2014, the first year, we had 50 Marilyns participating raising over $26,500, then an amazing $36,500 the next year and now we have over 200 participants who raise over $100,000 every year. The event continues to exceed all my own expectations, and we’re always aiming higher every year.

Whatever the figure, we know that every dollar will help Cancer Council SA make a real difference to so many people’s loved ones when they are fighting for their life.

I hope my kids never have cancer. But if they do, I hope treatment can be easier, more effective; smarter. Somebody has to do something to get us there and it might as well be all of us. As our muse, Marilyn Monroe, may have once said, “Give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world!” I like to think, “Just give her the right bathing suit, a blonde wig and a touch of red lippy!”