8 Days in the Desert!
There’s a Channel Nine television news presenter, a mid-morning FM radio announcer, a former NBL basketball star turned surgeon, construction executives, a developer, finance professionals, a 15 year old rower, some mums and dads and an odd CEO or two.
Just a few of the ‘talent’ turned hard-core trekkers that will be tackling a 250km hike through the Simpson Desert to raise money for the charity Youngcare and that I will be following both on camera and on foot for a one hour documentary for Channel Nine.
8 Days in the Desert will be the culmination of some very tough training and even tougher fundraising as the trekkers take on the sand and dust, freezing to blisteringly hot temperatures, no showers, food rations, rough sleeping, and the rugged harshness of the geographical centre of Australia.
It’s a massive trek replicating in a small way the isolating, relentless and unforgiving churn of life for young people with high care needs and the incredible work Youngcare does to provide age-appropriate housing and care with a focus on dignified living outcomes for its current and potential residents.
As the CEO of Youngcare and one of the leaders of the Simpson Desert Challenge Samantha Kennerley has seen first hand with an accident to her son a few years ago, unexpected injury, illness, genetics or just plain bad luck can mean any young person at any time may need the help of the organisation.
It’s that proverbial, “you just never know” highlighted by meeting one resident Trina, who worked as a research scientist and spent study time with former Australian of the Year, Professor Ian Frazer before suffering an unexpected stroke in her early 40’s and now calls Youngcare home.
But it costs big money to provide that accommodation and care.
All hikers must raise $35,000 each to participate and the enthusiasm and ideas for raising money in such a congested and competitive quest for charity dollars is both creative and inspiring.
Golf days, paid leave competitions and a black tie bingo gala event are just some of the ways these 18 ordinary people are trying to exact extraordinary dollars.
Despite the differing ways of attracting donations they are all doing it with the same goal.
To raise as much money as they can for Youngcare.
They also have to put their feet where their mouths and fingers in other people’s pockets, are.
The training model consists of a three day a week regime with one session dedicated to fitness, another to hill work in readiness for the sandy desert inclines and long weekend treks to test stamina, resolve and commitment.
We have just ticked off our first big hit-out.
A five hour, 23 kilometre slog in the incredible humidity, soaring heat and the ridiculous steep inclines around Mt Coot-tha with the realisation we would have to back up and do that and more for another week.
Yes you read right.
“We” and “our”.
I am also pulling on boots and a backpack to produce the special. So too is a cameraman and sound recordist.
We will be there to capture all the highs, lows, heartbreak, exhilaration and unexpected.
We have been told it will be hard physically and we have already had a taste of that. We are being warned it will be testing mentally and for that it will be hard to prepare.
There are gritted-teeth jokes with an underlying ripple of fear about no showering for a week, bush ablutions, food rations, rats, snakes, dingos, camels and other wildlife.
While many may recoil at the thought, it must be remembered in context.
It really is a walk in the national park compared to the life Youngcare residents have to endure daily with not an eight day deadline in sight.
And admiringly the cast of this Channel 9 special have indeed put that front of mind and are preparing to go on this adventure carrying the essentials for survival in the desert, their own personal goals and a united sense of purpose.
It really will be something to watch!
To donate and support these amazing trekkers go to
Stay tuned for updates and broadcast details on Channel 9. #8daysinthedesert