Fifty teenagers have officially embarked on a 14-month multi-layered journey with the launch of the 2019 Kokoda Challenge Youth Program on Sunday.
The Gold Coast, Brisbane, Tweed and Logan participants, affectionately known as ‘Kokoda Kids’, came together with their 16 volunteer youth leaders for fitness testing, orientation and a uniform presentation.
Kokoda Youth Leader Holly puts her fitness to the test
The Kokoda Challenge Youth Program (KCYP), funded by Kokoda Challenge Event proceeds, comprises physical training, community service, education and mentorship, culminating in a funded trip to Papua New Guinea to trek the Kokoda Track.
Kokoda Youth Foundation Chairman and Founder Doug Henderson OAM said participants came from all walks of life and every segment of society.
“Over 500 teenagers have graduated from the Kokoda Challenge Youth Program in the past 15 years,” Mr Henderson said.
“It is a physical, mental and cultural journey of a lifetime, followed by a period of community service to learn the value of giving back.
“The extended time frame allows for opportunities to make choices, form life long bonds, learn from mistakes and flourish.”
Kokoda Kids Emily and Sabhbh
St Joseph’s student Emily said her sister, who participated in 2017, inspired her to take on the KCYP this year.
“She was having a difficult time in the beginning but became a pretty amazing person throughout the program,” she said.
Emily’s mum Kylie said she thought it would be a good way for her daughter to find her feet.
“I think she will gain lifetime friends, find out more about who she is and give her a really good foundation for life,” Kylie said.
Tweed branch participant Tanisha said although she knew it would be challenging, she was excited to embark on the journey.
“I want to prove to myself that I can do this and prove to others that they can do hard things too,” she said.
KYF CEO Matt Helmers will also take part in the program this year, joining Kokoda Kids on their weekly bush walks in preparation for the 96km adventure in Papua New Guinea in September.
“For me it’s about keeping fit, following in the footsteps of our Australian soldiers and understanding the supreme sacrifices they made,” Mr Helmers said.
Next week the Kokoda Kids begin 20 weeks of Sunday bush walks and weekly training sessions.
Kokoda Kids Tanishka & Shenyaqua