Announcing the winner of the Outerworld $5,000 Trip of a Lifetime Competition Posted on 10 Jun 14:32 , 2 comments

The arrival of May heralded Outerworld's second birthday, and to celebrate we held a month-long double up sale which featured the biggest Australian vape competition prize ever: a $5,000 Trip of a Lifetime, in which one lucky vaper received (or was meant to receive, more on that later) a $3,000 travel voucher and a $2,000 pre-paid credit card to do with as they wished.

It was by far and away the dumbest thing we ever did. The response was absolutely crazy, orders were coming in much faster than we could possibly hope to fulfil them and we were literally working around the clock to keep up.

So when June 1 arrived, we were extremely relieved that we could finally stop packing boxes and start reading through the thousands of competition entries to select a worthy winner.

The competition was simple: entrants just had to describe, in 25 words or less, how vaping had improved their life for the better.

Some entries were funny, some were sad, and some were, frankly, insane, but there was a clear theme running through all of them: people start vaping because of an overwhelming desire to quit smoking.

It sounds so obvious to us, doesn't it – of course that's why people vape, why else would it be – but it's something that politicians and prohibitionists alike seem to not understand. They view vaping as a gateway into smoking and not a gateway out of it.

It's a perception which has harmed us in terms of the government response to vaping; there are states in Australia where vape shops are completely banned and where possession of nicotine (even as an individual) is punished with hefty fines. 

Another common thread was the number of people who started vaping because of their children, either due to pressure from the children themselves or due to the birth of a child. I'm not a parent (unless you count Zelda as a child, WHICH I VERY MUCH DO) but I can imagine the overwhelming desire to be around to see them grow up, to know that if you continue smoking there's a very high chance you won't live long enough to see them mature into the people you hope they'll be. 

And then there were the entries from people who were already sick, who had been diagnosed with an illness caused by smoking. Sometimes it was minor breathing problems, sometimes it was simple skin conditions, but unfortunately sometimes it was cancer.

Finally, there was the winning entry. Before I talk about it and say whose it was, let me show you the entry itself:

My son has brain cancer. So I quit smoking, started vaping the same day to be around to help him fight his battle.

The moment I read that sentence, I was intrigued. This wasn't a person who was ill themselves, it was someone intimately involved in someone else's illness. I have been ill, and I have looked after ill people, and it always seemed to me that dealing with someone else's illness is often harder than what you put yourself through when you're ill. Not always, and I wouldn't dare generalise how other people feel, but that was my experience and so this entry in particular resonated with me.

So I started looking into the person who made this entry, and discovered someone genuinely wonderful. Someone who constantly gave of themselves to support others and who put their emotions and stresses aside to ensure their entire family was provided for and loved, someone who even gave up their job so they'd have more time to give their support.

From the entry alone, many of you will already know who I'm talking about, and if you know her personally then the description above will have left no doubt in your mind who it is, but for those of you who don't know her, let me introduce you to the winner of the Outerworld $5,000 Trip of a Lifetime competition:

Lauren Barton!

Lauren Barton, winner of the Outerworld $5,000 Trip of a Lifetime Competition

Lauren is everything I described her to be. Kind, generous to a fault, and fighting to stay afloat in a terrible situation. Her son, Zack, has a brain tumour which first presented itself in the form of a seizure on Mother's Day last year (Lauren jokes that she would have preferred breakfast in bed, but that's just how it goes.) 

The reason I chose her entry above all others was more than just because of the situation she's in – lots of people have sick relatives and lots of people have the inner strength to carry on – it's the sheer magnitude of her sacrifice that means she genuinely deserves a bit of a break and a chance to relax. 

As soon as the extent of Zack's illness became clear, she left a job she loved so she could be there for him, and for her three other children. She single-handedly took control of the situation and sought the best medical attention she could get, often travelling back and forth to Melbourne with her son to access treatment options that simply weren't available in South Australia.

She put aside any of her own desires to focus solely on her children, to make sure that even if she couldn't afford so much as a bar of chocolate for herself, they would always be clothed and fed and educated and provided for.

Being a single mum is tough at the best of times, but with four kids, one of whom is fighting a serious illness, you can imagine just how stressful the situation has been.

And yet while all of this was going on, Lauren was able to quit smoking by switching to a vapouriser. Consider that for a moment. Nothing in the world could be more intense than finding out your child is sick, nothing could be more gut-wrenching and stressful, and yet Lauren was able to put down the cigarettes and pick up a mod and never once stumbled – she hasn't had a single cigarette since that fateful Mother's Day. 

So there was no question in my mind during the selection process that if anyone deserved this prize, it was Lauren. Someone who has given so much to provide happiness to others deserves a little happiness themselves.

As I mentioned at the start of this post, the competition prize was initially supposed to be a $3,000 travel voucher and a $2,000 pre-paid credit card, but given the circumstance Lauren isn't in a position to travel – Zack needs to be close to his doctors and specialists as they continue to improve his condition, and his seizures can strike at any time, making recreational travel all but impossible.

So instead, the prize was awarded as a lump-sum of $5,000 and a big novelty cheque, on the understanding that Lauren promised to spend at least a bit of it on herself instead of spending it all on other people. Whether she does that or not is another question, since her first instinct is always to make sure her kids have everything they could ever need, but I really hope she takes some time out to relax and be the pampered one for a change.

$5,000 is a nice chunk of change and will go a long way, but the cost of having a sick child in Australia is more than you might expect, even despite the fantastic public health care system we enjoy in this country.

So for those of you who are feeling generous and want to help contribute to Zack's exorbitant medical costs, here's a link to a Go Fund Me which would really help put a dent in those expenses:

https://www.gofundme.com/zack99

One thing outsiders so often don't understand is that vaping isn't just something people use to quit smoking, it's a community in every sense of the word. We've all met new friends through vaping, we've all supported other people and had them support us, and the community often pulls together to do amazing things, so if you can afford to give even a few dollars to Zack's campaign then it would be greatly appreciated.

Well, that about wraps it up for the sale and the competition – fucking finally. I can't tell you how stressful the last month has been and how reluctant I am to ever do anything as stupid as this again, but I'd like to thank everyone who made this competition possible and everyone who has supported Outerworld over the last two years.

We're extremely proud to be part of this community and we hope to serve you for many more years to come. 

Take it easy, look to the stars, and I'll see you on the flipside!

Savvas, Jana, and Zelda

Savvas, Jana, and little Zelda :)