Dalby State High School is perched in a little country town northwest of Toowoomba and is about a three-hours’ drive from the Gold Coast. Despite the distance, this humble little school has been a part of the Kokoda Challenge since 2009. Eleven years ago, three teams participated in the 96km Gold Coast Kokoda Challenge on behalf of Dalby State High School, which was their very first time competing in Australia’s toughest team endurance event. Like many of our competitors, they found that the Kokoda Challenge very quickly became addictive and after the sore legs and blisters wore off, they found themselves saying; I want to do it again next year!
Since their first challenge, Dalby State High School has participated in every Kokoda Challenge on the Gold Coast since. 2020 was set to be their biggest year yet, they had 9 teams set to compete in the 96km Gold Coast Kokoda Challenge and 4 teams in the 48km event, which was the most teams they had ever registered. In fact, in previous years, their cohort had become so large that they had to organise buses to transport them all out to the start line at Mudgeeraba Bowls Club to kick off the Gold Coast Kokoda Challenge!
What would have been the 2020 bus load of keen competitors and supporters included 26 teachers, a den mother (aka a dedicated mother of one of the participants to oversee the whole operations) and a whopping 72 students. They all would have eagerly filed into the bus and headed to the Kokoda Challenge start line; some as competitors and others to make up the support crew for each team.
Just recently, Founders of the Kokoda Youth Foundation Doug and Anna Henderson made the trip out to Dalby to thank the school for their tireless commitment to our Challenges and for their enormous support of our foundation.
After we were forced to cancel all our events as a result of COVID-19, our community was just as heartbroken as we were. 2020 would have been the year of the 16th Kokoda Challenge and it was probably one of the hardest blows the Kokoda Youth Foundation has ever faced since it’s beginnings back in 2004. At the same time, we have been able to adapt during these uncertain times and develop new initiatives such as the Kokoda Virtual Challenge which managed to raise $17.5k during the month of May and the Kokoda Community Challenge which encouraged our Gold Coast competitors to go out hiking on their favourite trails during the weekend that the Gold Coast Challenge was supposed to be held so as to still celebrate the day and pay homage to this significant weekend in Kokoda history.
Another incredibly supportive school that we must make mention of is Cavendish Road State High School. This co-educational school located on the outskirts of southern Brisbane has been another massive part of our events year after year. They too were enormously disappointed after we announced that the events were cancelled but decided that that wasn’t going to stop them from completing their own version of the event that students, teachers and parents look forward to each year.
They decided to create their own event entitled the “Cav-Koda” Challenge which involved hiking either a 28km or 56km course kicking off at Camp Mountain Lookout in D’Aguilar National Park. All competitors had been training every Wednesday afternoon for the past few months in the lead up for the big event and even had custom “Cav-Koda” shirts made! Our COO Johllene met the participants there to set up some Kokoda Challenge flags to make the start line look a bit more official and one of the students read The Ode before the minute of silence to pay their respects to fallen Australian soldiers. After they set off bright and early at 7am, Doug and Anna Henderson met the hikers at the finish line to congratulate them and reward them with some Kokoda Challenge merchandise for their outstanding efforts.
Another school that also created their own version of the Kokoda Challenge was Caboolture East State School. During the month of June (when the 2020 Brisbane Kokoda Challenge was scheduled to take place), students of Caboolture East State School spent their lunchtimes walking or running around a track that was mapped out around the schoolgrounds and were presented with a Kokoda Challenge certificate when they had completed 48kms by the end of the month of June.
Lowood State High School (which is northwest of Brisbane) also completed a 48km and 96km course from Linville and finished in Lowood in August as a substitute for the Kokoda Challenge which they too usually take place in annually. They too had custom shirts AND hoodies made up to remember their outstanding achievement for years to come!
Schools have made up a large part of the Kokoda Challenge numbers since it’s inception and continues to be an integral part in our future events. We are forever grateful for the support of local schools and the surrounding community. Although 2020 hasn’t exactly panned out the way most of us expected, we are still eternally grateful for our supportive community for their ongoing commitment to keeping the Spirit of Kokoda alive and supporting the Kokoda Youth Foundation.
If you or your local school are looking to get involved with our events or youth programs then please contact us to find out how you can get involved.