Beyond Blue will be cheering on 14 intrepid trekkers this month as they take on the historic Kokoda Track in support of Australians affected by depression, anxiety or suicide.
As the saying goes, ‘charity begins at home’ in this adventure, with two of Beyond Blue’s own staff members leading the charge on the challenging trek to raise funds for the organisation.
Kristopher Wood from Beyond Blue’s suicide prevention team, and Kimberley Nichols from our marketing team, are part of the first Beyond Blue Kokoda Challenge group, who will face stifling humidity and heavy rain as they cross the route over nine days in April.
The Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea is a gruelling 96 kilometre trail through dense tropical jungle. For many people, walking the track is a pilgrimage honouring the Australian soldiers who fought along the path in 1942 during the second World War.
Beyond Blue teamed up with Inspired Adventures travel group to offer a Kokoda Challenge, for people who want to do the trek in support of Beyond Blue.
Our staff members ‘auditioned’ against their colleagues to take a place on the trek team and represent Beyond Blue’s work.
Kris and Kimberley applied as they witnessed first-hand the impact Beyond Blue’s projects have had on members of the community, especially when they spent time on the Beyond Blue Roadshow. In 2014/2015 the Roadshow travelled 53,000km around Australia in a big blue bus to encourage people in big and small communities to take one step towards better mental health.
“Connecting with people on the Roadshow really helped to drive home the importance of our work in the community,” Kimberley said.
“Everywhere we went, from rural towns to capital cities people spoke with us about their experiences of depression, anxiety and suicide. For some people, it was the first time they had opened up to anyone about what they were going through. It was really wonderful to be able to provide a listening ear and direct them to the Beyond Blue Support Service or a local health professional to get the support they needed.
“It was also really humbling to hear how Beyond Blue had already made a positive difference to many people’s lives and helped them through some of their toughest times.”
People who take on the Beyond Blue Kokoda Challenge, which is a self-funded trip, are given a $4000 fundraising goal. Kris, Kimberley and another workmate Lucy (who unfortunately couldn’t do the trek this time due to an injury) have raised over $17,000 so far.
“I knew hitting this target wasn’t going to be easy, but getting out there and doing it really showed this to be true. We have an enormous appreciation of the incredible lengths Beyond Blue fundraisers go to. It takes so much time and commitment,” Kris said.
“Holding goods and services auctions was by far the most successful fundraising tool for us. Local businesses kindly donated goods, but not everything had to be a big ticket item. One of the auctions we held among our workmates included items like an offer to make a colleague coffees for a week.
“The support we have received has been incredible. When I let my local gym know I was going to do Kokoda, they offered me free personal training.”
Kimberley and Kris said after training for their Kokoda trip, they are in the best physical shape they’ve ever been in.
“Kris and I have been on some beautiful hikes in the lead up to the trek and I’m grateful Kokoda has inspired me to embrace exercise in this way. I wasn’t really an ‘outdoorsy’ person but I’ve never felt fitter and I’m sure this is the start of a healthier way of life for me,” Kimberley said.
Kris and Kimberley are excited to meet the dozen other brave Beyond Blue supporters who will join them at Kokoda, and hear why they feel strongly about helping people through Beyond Blue. The group will also be on the track for Anzac Day, which will make the journey extra special.
Beyond Blue CEO Georgie Harman said whichever way people choose to support Beyond Blue, all efforts are greatly appreciated.
“These generous donations help us to continue our important work creating an Australian community that understands depression and anxiety and feels empowered to seek support when needed, including by contacting our Support Service by phone 24/7 on 1300 22 4636 or via web chat (3PM-midnight AEST) or email at www.beyondblue.org.au/get-support,” she said.
“We’re often amazed at the lengths Beyond Blue fundraisers go to, like trekking Kokoda, but know this isn’t possible for everyone. Whether funds are raised through an epic adventure, a small community event or by children emptying the contents of their piggy banks, it all helps people with depression and anxiety.”
For anyone who missed out this time, there will be another opportunity to take part in the Inspired Adventures Kokoda Challenge, as a second trip is planned for later this year.