Spreading awareness one step at a time

An SES volunteer greets the last of the Mini Marathon walkers, Simone Thomason, Corina Gray and son Cooper, Sarah Northfield, Anouk Jaaniste. PHOTOS: Susan C McDarra

Susan C Mcdarra

CLOSE to $10,000 was raised for Cystic Fibrosis (CF) this year by the annual Meagan Walker Mini Marathon last month.

About 180 participants, including dogs, horses, and pram pushers, braved the breeze to muster at the Longreach Railway Station to run, ride and walk the 11km distance to “Longway” station.

Now in its 31st year, the event instigators Rosemary and Warwick Champion were recognised as joint winners for their fundraising efforts at this year’s Cystic Fibrosis Queensland’s Diamond Jubilee, celebrating 60 years of supporting families and raising funds for research.

The community has raised $120,000 in 31 years, but despite the ongoing drought, this year’s $10,000 was the biggest amount raised in one year.

Mrs Champion started the fundraiser when her brother James Walker and his wife Sue’s daughter Meagan was 16 and suffering from Cystic Fibrosis until she passed away at the age of 29.

It’s a family effort, with the Champion’s daughter Simone Thomason helping the event flow smoothly over the years.

She said it has always been a unique and social way to spend Father’s Day.

“You’re supposed to have brekkie cooked for you, but for the last 31 years Dad’s been cooking a barbecue breakfast for more than 100 people every year, with the help of the Rotary Club,” Mrs Thomason said.

Ten-week-old Connie Lacey was recently diagnosed with the illness, and after weeks away in hospital, has returned to Longreach with her parents Anna and Kurt.

A support group from Ilfracombe, where Kurt’s family is from, and Barcaldine where Anna’s family is from, attended the walk and will no doubt become loyal supporters of the fundraiser if history is anything to go by.

For Rosie Wilson from Aramac, this is a long-standing annual pilgrimage.

She lost her son Lance to CF 17 years ago, and Lance and Meagan were good friends.

As a result, there’s always been a strong following of about 20 people from Aramac families – from grandma through to the little ones – who come over and camp on the river the night before the walk.

Sharing the event workload is Brooke Ballard and Matt Machin from Longreach, whose daughter Sienna, 6, also has CF.

Hugely generous donations of money, food, and prizes from local businesses make the event possible, as do the SES and other volunteers.