World’s first wheelchair participant in Oxfam’s 100km endurance challenge

News, Oxfam Trailwalker article written on the 15 Apr 2013

A Victorian man will this month become the world’s first quadriplegic to enter the 100km Oxfam Trailwalker, tackling the 48-hour fundraising challenge from April 19 to 21 in a specially-modified wheelchair.

Helped by seven Parks Victoria teammates, including Victorian MP David Southwick, Queenscliff’s Bruce Towers will travel on a TrailRider, a purpose-built all-terrain wheelchair, through the rocky and steep course east of Melbourne, through the Dandenong Valley Parklands to the Yarra Ranges to raise money for Oxfam Australia.

Mr Towers said he was thrilled to be a part of such an exciting adventure after suffering horrific injuries in a helicopter accident in West Papua in 2006 that killed three people.

“I thought I might never be able to access the outdoors like this ever again and now I’m doing a 100km challenge. It proves anything is possible,” he said.

“It is great to be able to participate in the Trailwalker event and be part of the team. It gives me an opportunity to access some of our beautiful park trails and to also support Oxfam.”

The gutsy team was brought together by park visitor David Stratton who wanted to build a team to take on Oxfam’s 100km challenge, and do it all with a member in one of Parks Victoria’s all-terrain TrailRiders. A Multiple Sclerosis sufferer, Mr Stratton has long dreamt of making all-terrain wheelchairs available to people with disabilities so they can experience the outdoors.

Two teams from Parks Victoria will now make David’s vision a reality, rotating two of its members – or sherpas – to steer and push the chair across the Trailwalker course. The team includes State Member for Caulfield David Southwick, Scott Lever, Megan Watson, Phillip Went, David Ponsford, Gary Porter and Ben Hart (David Stratton’s son). State Member for Gembrook Brad Battin and John Kenwright will be the team support crew.

Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Dr Helen Szoke said the innovative team would inspire the other 750 teams taking part in the 100km challenge.

“This team is an excellent example of the kind of teamwork you see in Trailwalker, where all members are committed to getting each other along the course while raising money for Oxfam’s life-saving work,” she said.

Member for Caulfield David Southwick, who did last year’s Melbourne Oxfam Trailwalker, said: “This is a great opportunity to raise awareness of the issues of disability and access while working with Parks Victoria to promote ways that all members of our community can experience Victoria’s beautiful state parks.”