Meet the 12-year-old Ballarat boy who just walked the Kokoda Track to help children living with injury and trauma

(Original article posted August 24, 2018 via thecourier.com.au, © 2018)

Bailey Tuddenham has a heart as big as some of the mountains he has climbed in the past few weeks.

The Invermay 12-year-old last week completed the 96km Kokoda Track through the rugged forests of Papua New Guinea – a trek he used to raise money for the KIDS Foundation.

During the past three months of training, Bailey hiked up Black Hill but it did little to prepare him for the rigours of the demanding hike.

“The hardest was probably day two and three when we had to get up very big hills. They were very hard and they were long days and in some places I was climbing on my hands and knees,” he said.

Bailey, his grandfather and uncle, and 17 other group members took eight days to complete the walk, starting about 6am and arriving at camp between 12 noon and 4pm most days.

“Luckily it was dry over there and it didn’t rain but it was very challenging, though at the same time the landscape and war history was great,” he said.

Training consisted of long walks through bush, hot yoga, cycling, gym sessions, runs and footy training which gave him the fitness to complete the trek. Although he had completed a school project about Kokoda, Bailey admits he didn’t really understand it until he arrived.

Bailey is no stranger to covering vast distances on foot.

Two years ago he walked 43km from Daylesford to Lake Wendouree, and last year he completed Australia’s 11 highest peaks in four days, both as fundraisers for KIDS Foundation.

The KIDS Foundation, run by his nan Susie O’Neill, teaches safety awareness and support children and adults living with serious injuries and burns including regular camps so children can meet others like themselves.

“I know the kids really well, I go on camp and meet them and we do fun activities, and it helps them seeing other kids so they know they are not the only ones,” Bailey said.

Bailey’s Kokoda trek has so far raised about $4000 to bring his fundraising efforts over the past three years to almost $17,000 but he’s still looking to add to the total through his gofundme page to help more kids.

“The money I’ve raised walking Kokoda will help I think 10 kids go to camp, and help with the KIDS Foundation aim to teach every kinder child in Victoria about safety,” he said.