World No.1 tennis player Ashleigh Barty has become the latest Australian sports star to join fundraising efforts for bushfire victims, pledging to donate all of her Brisbane International prize money.
After donating more than $30,000 late last year to the RSPCA to help wildlife affected by the national disaster, Barty said she wanted to dig deep again for families who have been left devastated by bushfires.
A big donation from Barty looms for the bushfire appeal.
She is the top seed in the Brisbane event which starts on Monday, with the winner taking home $382,000 and the runner-up $204,000.
“Wildlife has been lost but it has also affected lives and homes so I have been sitting down and thinking with my team and family on ways we can help,” Barty said in Brisbane on Sunday.
“There have been really great initiatives from cricketers, tennis players, golfers, soccer players all over the country trying to help out.
“We have come to the decision any of my prize money here in Brisbane will be donated to the (Australian) Red Cross to go towards the families and homes affected.”
Barty joined a growing list of sports stars and organisations to lend their support with the NRL, Football Federation Australia, Netball Australia and two-time Dakar Rally winner Toby Price among those coming on board on Sunday.
“The first time I saw of it was flying home from the Fed Cup final (in November) from Perth back to the east coast,” Barty said of the bushfires.
“We could see the smoke haze and some of the fires from the plane, so that really hit home with me.”
Barty’s offer follows the lead of fellow Australian tennis player Nick Kyrgios who sparked the massive fundraising effort.
Kyrgios’s social media call for a fundraiser resulted in Tennis Australia announcing a “Rally for Relief” exhibition match on Rod Laver Arena on January 15, which is set to feature some of the world’s top players.
And his personal pledge to donate $200 to the bushfire appeal for every ace he serves this summer began a flood of donations from sports people around the country.
After also pledging to donate $100 for every ace, the ATP Cup in Australia has already raised more than $42,000 with tournament organisers setting a target of more than $150,000.
On Sunday, Barty’s fellow WTA stars Simona Halep, Petra Kvitova and Alize Cornet also joined the cause.
CEO Todd Greenberg tweeted that the NRL was “working with all our Clubs, States & @NRL players & @RLPlayers & plenty of former players on a coordinated program to support our communities affected by the bushfires. It will ensure the entire game & all our fans can be part of it & make a real impact-Will keep you posted”.
FFA announced it will dedicate rounds 14 and 15 of the A-League and rounds 9 and 10 of the W-League to raise funds for those impacted by bushfires and drought.
Netball Australia said it would announce in the coming days the most effective ways to provide both immediate and lasting support.
And Price pledged to donate his starting jersey and pants for this year’s Dakar, with the auction already in excess of $5000 on Sunday.