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Swapping suits for hiking boots in aid of dementia research

Two staff from Victoria’s Lifeview Residential Care will be taking part in Alzheimer’s Australia’s Kokoda 2017 trek this September as part of Dementia Awareness Month.

James van Beek and Sarah Pettenon with their boots and trailer, which is being raffled as part of fundraising efforts (Source: Lifeview Residential Care)
James van Beek and Sarah Pettenon with their boots and trailer, which is being raffled as part of fundraising efforts (Source: Lifeview Residential Care)

The 96-kilometre trek of the Kokoda Track is a 10-day long, physically and mentally challenging experience that Alzheimer’s Australia hopes will test the endurance and resilience of participants, all while raising vital funds and awareness for the fight against dementia.

An Alzheimer’s Australia spokesperson says that this is the first time the organisation has run the trek as part of their fundraising efforts during Dementia Awareness Month, last year starting the challenging tradition with a climb of Mount Kilimanjaro.

“Every year Alzheimer’s Australia does a different overseas challenge event, which provides our supporters with exciting new ways to raise funds that help provide support, care and resources for people living with dementia,” the spokesperson says.

“Overseas challenges in particular help us to raise a great deal of awareness with an audience we might not otherwise reach.”

The trek that both Lifeview Chief Financial Officer James van Beek and Registered Nurse Sarah Pettenon are embarking on was chosen by Alzheimer’s Australia as it could be ‘very appealing’ to Australians.

Ms Pettenon says she is undertaking the trek because of her experience in specialising in the care of those living with dementia.

“On a daily basis I witness the impact dementia has on individuals and their carers,” she says.

“For those affected by dementia, they undertake a journey, which is not dissimilar to what Australian soldiers experienced in 1942 on the Kokoda Track.”

Not unlike his colleague, Mr van Beek has the interests of those living with dementia, and past soldiers at heart for his trek of Kokoda.

“It’s not only to conquer the obvious physical and mental challenges the terrain and weather conditions will throw at me, but also pay my respects to the World War II soldiers,” he says.

In the lead up to the trek, as recommended by Alzheimer’s Australia, the sector professionals have been undertaking an extensive training regime for preparation of what is to come, and with the help of Lifeview residents, staff and families, they have also been pursuing a range of fundraising activities for the cause.

As part of the fundraising efforts encouraged by Alzheimer’s Australia, each Kokoda Trek participant must raise at least $2,500 before or by the return date.

“Fundraising is extremely important as it allows us to continue to enhance the support and services we provide,” the Alzheimer’s Australia spokesperson says.

“Dementia Awareness Month is an opportunity for Alzheimer’s Australia to elevate awareness and dispel myths about dementia, communicate the crucial role of education about dementia and the risk reduction factors, and most importantly, where to get help.

“These challenges that are physically demanding, such as the Kokoda Trek, evoke emotion in participants and that helps them to remember why they are doing what they are doing, driving them to complete their challenge.”

This year’s Kokoda Trek will run from 24 September – 3 October with the announcement of the 2018 challenge of the Everest Base Camp already released by Alzheimer’s Australia.

Dementia Awareness Month will run throughout September and will see a number of fundraising, awareness and support events running across the country following the theme ‘You are not alone’.

For more information on Dementia Awareness Month, contact your local Alzheimer’s Australia office by searching online or if you or anyone you know needs dementia support, call the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500. 

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