At 6:30 am on Friday 15 March, almost 500 women and men gathered at Maroubra Beach to take part in the 2019 Fred Hollows Foundation Coastrek. Similar events were held at the same time in Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide. Among the participants in NSW were Michelle Graham and her team ‘Mothers Madness’ which included her mum and her aunt.
Michelle, Claims Team Leader at Doctors’ Health Fund and a newly-minted lawyer, is no stranger to the rigorous requirements of Coastrek. In 2017 she took part in the 30-kilometre trek and found the physical challenge exciting as well as rewarding, which is why she accepted the invitation from Coastrek to participate again in 2019.
“It was actually my mum who suggested that we do the 60km trek this time, and there was just no backing away from that challenge”. Michelle’s dad, a Wagga-based anaesthetist, agreed to man the support vehicle. Michelle and her family are all members of Doctors’ Health Fund.
With team members based in Sydney, Albury, Wagga and Melbourne, preparing for the trek meant virtual training where everyone would start hiking at the same time and live message each other on a WhatsApp chat group to keep one another motivated.
Michelle recalled that on the day of the trek, the first 40 or so kilometres were manageable, even enjoyable: “The struggle started to set in at the 45km mark. By 50km my right leg suffered intense muscle fatigue, which made lifting it up the steps of the track difficult; at 55kms the physical exhaustion had fully set in, and all I wanted to do was cry”.
The final five kilometres was fraught with rain, mud and darkness but 16 hours after her start time, at 10:30pm, Michelle and her team reached Manly, completing their 60-kilometre trek.
She credits finishing the trek to the support she received: “I was so surprised by how generous my family and friends, especially my colleagues at Doctors’ Health Fund, were with their donations. It really motivated me when I was 55km into the trek and wanted to stop, but I kept going because I didn’t want to let them down”.
Mothers’ Madness raised $3,774 for the Fred Hollows Foundation.
The Fred Hollows Foundation
Dr Fred Hollows and his wife Gabi started the Fred Hollows Foundation in 1992, four years after he was diagnosed with cancer. Sadly Dr Hollows passed away the following year, but his legacy continues to live on through the Foundation with a mission to eliminate avoidable blindness and to empower local doctors and nurses through training and affordable equipment to diagnose and treat eye problems in their communities.
Today the Foundation works in more than 25 countries and has restored sight to more than 2.5 million people.
For more information on the Foundation or to volunteer or donate, visit hollows.org.au