LAUNCESTON triathlete Melissa Clark will participate in the Port Macquarie Ironman competition next month for the benefit of neglected animals.
Miss Clark said she visited Big Ears Sanctuary at Longford three years ago, and was taken by its founders' dedication to saving every type of animal they could - be it chicken, donkey, dog or cat.
Jacqui Steele and her husband Brett founded the sanctuary in 2004.
Mrs Steele said the animals kept there were either formerly abused, neglected or abandoned, with just a few surrendered from good homes.
Miss Clark said she had formed a relationship with the Steeles and learnt of the important community service they provided.
``While people focus on paying their bills, Jacqui and Brett focus on paying animal bills,'' she said.
The animal lover recently decided to help the sanctuary and add another challenge to her first Ironman triathlon this year by making it a fund-raiser.
Miss Clark set a further aim to have each kilometre of the 226-kilometre race sponsored for $10. She said she had reached just over half of her $2260 target, raising $1200 so far.
Miss Clark has placed 19 prizes on specific kilometres on the course as an added incentive for donors, effectively making each donation an entry in a lotto draw.
She aims to reach her donation target before the big race on May 4.
For details on how to donate, and a list of prizes donated by Launceston businesses, visit www.ironmanforbigears.weebly.com.