It’s one thing to commemorate our fallen soldiers during upcoming ANZAC Day dawn services, but would you walk in the footsteps of our veterans? The Kokoda Challenge is Australia’s toughest team endurance event that encourages participants to walk in the shoes of our diggers while learning about Australia’s most significant battle fought along the Kokoda Track in 1942.
Families with kids as young as 9 years old will be traversing from Brookfield to Camp Mountain and back through D’Aguilar National Park on the 5th of June. The Kokoda Challenge honours our Kokoda veterans and raises funds for the Kokoda Youth Foundation; an Australian charity that runs personal development programs for teens in our local community.
“The whole reason these events exist is to support the numerous Youth Programs we offer young people” says Chief Operating Officer Johllene Elson. “Participants must raise funds to compete in our events and all the proceeds enable local kids to undertake our youth programs free of charge. Our flagship program, the KCYP is 14-month life skills program that helps inspire them to reach their full potential and discover who they really are.”
The Kokoda Youth Foundation also incorporates the Spirit of Kokoda in all their programs and events. “We have veterans present the Kokoda Challengers with dog tags at the finish line” says Founder of the Kokoda Youth Foundation and Vietnam Veteran Doug Henderson. “They shake the hands of the men who fought for our country and went through hell out on that track in New Guinea.”
One of the last remaining Kokoda veterans, Alan “Kanga” Moore from the 39th Battalion passed away earlier this year at 100 years of age, Alan was one of the veterans who shook the hands of the men, women and children at the finish line and his presence will be sadly missed. “There has never been a more important time to keep the story of these brave men alive” says Doug.
The men who fought in the Kokoda Campaign during World War II endured unimaginable hardship. Many of those who fought on the Kokoda Track were un-trained and severely lacked artillery and medical supplies. This forced many of them to cut the back off their shorts to avoid constantly soiling themselves due to malaria and other infections. These sicknesses cost the life of over 4,000 men alone, hundreds more were lost in battle.
You’ll want to get in quick though as last year’s Kokoda Challenge was cancelled due to the pandemic and this year is set to be bigger than ever before in the foundation’s 17-year history. The 48km event is already sold out, leaving only the 15km and 30km challenges still available for friends and family to support local youth and walk in the footsteps of Australian diggers. Teams can register at kokodachallenge.com.