Turning 61 with a triathlon to raise funds for St Luke's Hospital

Dr Tan Lai Yong aims to raise $61,000 in commemoration of his 61st birthday. PHOTO: COURTESY OF DR TAN LAI YONG

SINGAPORE - Instead of a nice meal or a pampering holiday, Dr Tan Lai Yong is turning 61 with a physically challenging event. The medical doctor turned lecturer will be participating in a triathlon on Sunday to raise funds for St Luke's Hospital.

Together with the hospital, he launched a campaign on crowdfunding platform giving.sg with the aim of raising $61,000 in commemoration of his 61st birthday in September. The campaign started on July 15 and will end on Sept 30.

The money raised will support the work of St Luke's Hospital's care and counselling team, which provides intensive psychosocial support to patients experiencing high levels of distress and caregivers who may be burnt out.

Dr Tan, who will be taking part in the TriFactor triathlon organised by events company Orange Room, will be starting at East Coast Park with a 750m swim, followed by a 18km cycle and a 5km run.

He has done three triathlons thus far - two with his children when they were in their early teens and the most recent one in 2018 to celebrate his 57th birthday and also to raise funds for St Luke's Hospital. He was part of the hospital's fund-raising committee in the 1990s.

The adjunct associate professor at National University of Singapore's (NUS) College of Alice & Peter Tan says he wanted to commemorate the easing of the Covid-19 restrictions by participating in a sporting event and at the same time give back to society.

"Now that sporting events are allowed, it's a cause for celebration. We have come a long way from the circuit breaker days to now being ahead of the curve for a global metropolis like Singapore to open up," says Dr Tan, who is married and has a daughter, 28, and a son, 24.

Recounting an encounter with a rental flat resident during the circuit breaker in 2020, he says: "Once, I saw an elderly man sitting at the stairway reading the newspaper. It seemed so serene except that the newspaper was upside down. At that time, no dine-in was allowed and people were not allowed to gather at the void deck."

It dawned on him that many elderly were cooped up at home and did not know how to spend their time with senior activity centres closed.

"They could not sit at the coffee shop and could not take long walks, so they were lost. In a way, doing this triathlon is a tribute to their silent sacrifice during the pandemic to reduce the spread of the virus," he adds.

Dr Tan considers himself privileged to get a clean bill of health every time he goes for a medical check. He makes it a point to exercise, eat healthily and maintain a positive mindset.

From his home in the east, he cycles two to four times a week to NUS and also takes walks with his wife every day.

Dr Tan urges people not to wait till they are older before starting to exercise. "Start when you're younger. In that way, you reap the benefits of a healthier and happier lifestyle in your later years."

To donate to Dr Tan's campaign, go to this website.

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