SISTERS EMBARK ON SUNSHINE COAST KOKODA CHALLENGE IN MEMORY OF COUSIN MARCO
In a heartfelt tribute to their late cousin Marco Sassetto, sisters Danica Austin and Nicole Talbot are set to take on the 30km Sunshine Coast Kokoda Challenge in Kenilworth come April this year. Marco, who tragically took his life in November 2023 at age 21, completed the formidable 96km Gold Coast Kokoda Challenge at 16 years of age in 2018, an event that is recalled to be a highlight of his high school years.
The Sunshine Coast Kokoda Challenge that will take place the weekend prior to ANZAC Day on Saturday the 20th of April, holds deep significance to sisters Danica and Nicole as it falls on the same day as what would have been Marco's 22nd birthday. The event, known for its arduous terrain and demanding endurance, marked a journey of mateship for Marco and his school friends.
Danica reminisces about Marco's passion for Kokoda, recounting that many of his friends shared heartfelt stories about their time together during the 96km Kokoda Challenge throughout the eulogy at his funeral.
“I knew from the moment I saw that the date was Marco’s birthday, I had to do this.” Said Danica. “It is going to be tough, both physically and mentally but even when training, Marco is there helping me push through. I know on the day, he is going to get me to that finish line.”
Danica and Nicole have long been considering registering for the event as their father, now retired, served in the military for 26 years. Their father’s service to our country instilled a deep connection to the military in their family after he served two tours in Afghanistan and two in East Timor. “Growing up as a military family, we’ve seen firsthand the sacrifices that soldiers make on a daily basis, not just when they are on a tour. Dad has mates from the army that have become lifelong family to us,” said Nicole.
Danica fondly remembers Marco's musical talent, recalling his trumpet performance of The Last Post at their school's ANZAC Day service. This memory highlights not only Marco's musical gift, but also his deep connection to commemoration.
“My sister and I need to do this together for our cousin’s memory and to raise awareness on how suicide affects so many lives,” said Nicole. “Life can be hard and if you need help, please reach out to someone. Your family and friends need you in their lives and they want to help you, if you feel like you have no other option, please, please speak to someone.”
The Kokoda Challenge raises funds for local youth programs run by Kokoda Youth Foundation, engaging and inspiring young people to reach their full potential, a cause that Danica and Nicole are both particularly passionate about following the loss of their beloved cousin.
As Danica and Nicole embark on the inaugural Sunshine Coast Kokoda Challenge, they carry with them the spirit of Marco, honoring his memory, and raising awareness for mental health. They also walk in honour of Veterans and all those who are currently serving members of the Australian Defence Force – two causes close to their hearts.
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