Greg is AAAF’s Branch Manager in Western Australia. Over his many years with AAAF, he’s been a driven and passionate champion of Alopecia Awareness and support for people living with the condition.
His latest project, Kokoda17, is an awareness and fundraising challenge for himself and a team of other dedicated individuals from our community. On Sunday the 13th of August, they begin the journey of a lifetime – tacking the Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea. They’re taking on this 97km of rough terrain and poignant history to help improve the lives of people living with Alopecia Areata.
Already this amazing crew had met their first fundraising goal of $10,000 toward support and research into alopecia. They hope to reach the $15,000 mark before they return from this grueling trip. You can help them help kids and families living with alopecia by donating here.
We sat down with Greg during his preparation for this impressive journey, to discuss what inspired the idea and why he took up the challenge.
- Greg, can you explain your connection with alopecia, and your involvement with AAAF?
My connection with Alopecia Areata is as a parent. Two of my three kids have alopecia, my daughter who is 18 and my son who is 17. My connection with AAAF is as a committee member and the Branch manager for WA.
- What inspired you to tackling the Kokoda Track?
I am 55 this year and am always looking for a challenge. I wanted to climb Kilimanjaro but couldn’t find a buddy. Andy Lavender who is in our WA group suggested the Kokoda Track for the 75th anniversary of the battles that happened there, so I thought why not? I’ve since read all about and am also inspired by the terrible hardship endured by the diggers to defeat the Japanese, but above all I want to use this trip to raise awareness and funds for Alopecia. I also plan to shave my head before I go as a symbolic sign of unity for people who live with alopecia.
- Have you ever done anything like this before? What is your training like to prepare for the trek?
When I was much younger I had the pleasure of trekking for about 9 days in the Kashmiri Himilayas in India, but I’m expecting this to be more challenging. The actual official fitness programme started until about 6 weeks before we will leave, but I am also getting fit by doing a lot of stair climbing, inside buildings and outside. Last week I climbed 7,500 steps which is about 1.3 km in height. Its hard work, but I might be one of the older people on the trek and I want to be as prepared as I can be.
- What are you most excited about the trek?
Just the challenge really. After reading the book “Kokoda” by Peter Fitzimons, I am in awe of what the ill-prepared, under-nourished and disease -ridden soldiers achieved against the odds. I want to visit those places and trekking there will give me but a taste of what it was like for those young people 75 years ago and of course to respect and reflect on the sacrifices they made in defence of Australia.
- What are you most nervous/worried about?
I am nervous about how my body will hold up. I know it will be difficult for me, but I am determined to do this for all people with alopecia to reflect the battle many of them have and to raise awareness. I am really pleased that one of us trekking actually has alopecia. I believe that alopecia shouldn’t stop anyone from achieving anything in life and I think people with alopecia living and breathing this sort of attitude by rising to the challenge can help in spire others to not hold back.
- What do you hope this trek will achieve?
As I said, I want us to help raise awareness for Alopecia Areata and to encourage people with alopecia to get out there and do stuff. If a 55 yo man can do something like for someone younger with alopecia it should be a dawdle!!
- What does Embrace Alopecia mean to you?
I obviously don’t have alopecia myself, but for me Embrace Alopecia is about self-acceptance, of respecting yourself for who you are and not necessarily define yourself by it. Alopecia is something about you but its not everything about you.
Show your support for Greg, and his companions on this journey, Andy and Tracey, by sharing this article and donating to the campaign.