11 August 2023

Em Scollary's City2Surf attempt an inspiration for people living with Williams syndrome

| Keeli Royle
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Em Scollary at the finish line of the City2Surf.

Em Scollary is ready to tackle the City2Surf for a fifth time. Photos: Supplied.

The colours, costumes, music and the crowd make the City2Surf an annual highlight on Em Scollary’s social calendar.

The 23-year-old from Shell Cove lives with a rare genetic disorder called Williams syndrome, but despite the challenges the condition brings, Em is prepped and ready to enter the event for a fifth time.

“I get up every year and jump out of bed and say, ‘Dad, let’s go to City2Surf!'” Em said. “I’m so excited to participate with everyone.”

Em has been walking up to 10 km with her dad Brendan almost every day to prepare for the 14-km trek from Sydney’s Hyde Park to Bondi Beach this weekend.

“I’ve got a coach that comes every Tuesday morning who comes and helps me with my balance and stuff, and she makes sure that I’m doing it right and we go for a jog,” Em said.

For the Scollary family, who regularly participate and volunteer in other running and walking events, such as parkrun, the inclusivity and flexibility of the City2Surf are major drawcards.

“There’s no rush to do it with her, it’s on her own timeline,” Brendan said.

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“It is an achievable distance for her; it’s a challenging course with all the hills on it but it’s just a matter of not pushing her but prompting her and she does it all on her own.”

In fact, Em often ends up being the one encouraging other participants.

“When you get up to Heartbreak Hill you’ll be slowing down, and, ‘Oh, I can’t do this, I can’t do that’ and it’s like, ‘Come on guys,'” she said.

But it’s not the race itself that makes the event so special for Em, it’s everything and everyone else around her.

“You listen to music and you can hear all the bands playing around you,” she said.

“We just get to meet so many different people as well,” Brendan said. “I think we spend more time taking photos than we do to do the whole thing.”

Em Scollary with band playing at City2Surf.

The bands and music at the City2Surf are Em’s favourite elements of the event.

And this year is set to be even more colourful than most, with Em, her father, grandfather and brother wearing matching costumes for a good cause.

“This is going to be amazing, we’re doing Wonder Woman this year,” Em said.

They’ve joined a world record attempt for the largest number of people dressed as the superhero to raise awareness and funds for Cure Brain Cancer.

“We’ve got our tutus, we’ve got our T-shirts, we’ve got our socks and we’re just waiting on our stars to come in to decorate our tutus,” Brendan said.

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Williams syndrome affects around one in 10,000 people and can cause intellectual disability and difficulties with spatial awareness and fine motor skills, but Brendan said it had also shaped Em’s incredible ability to socialise with people.

“The beauty of Williams syndrome is this unique ability to engage with anyone. She has no inhibitions when it comes to meeting people and she just takes in everything that happens,” he said.

“She also has this uncanny ability to remember detail.”

The Scollary family want to continue to raise awareness about Williams syndrome to show other people living with the disorder and their families that there is so much they have to offer.

“There’s so many other things that she can do, and she brings so much to our life and the lives of other people that she meets,” Brendan said.

The City2Surf starts this Sunday 13 August from 7:40 am in Sydney.

To find out more about Williams syndrome, visit the Williams Syndrome Australia website.

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